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Breast Implant Revision Surgery

Nearly 300,000 women underwent breast enhancement in 2019, and a significant number of these women will require revision in the future. The popular media oftentimes portrays breast augmentation as a simple, straightforward procedure, but it is actually a complex surgery and requires a high degree of expertise to provide patients with consistently excellent and reliable results. Proper execution requires meticulous pre-operative planning, proper surgical technique, and closely monitored postoperative care. Even with all factors optimized, revisions in breast augmentation and breast lift with implants procedures are not uncommon.

Revisional surgery is always more technically complex than primary surgery. Altered anatomy, scar tissue, ruptured breast implants, and the thinning of tissue make breast augmentation revision more complicated with less predictable results.

Am I a Candidate for Breast Revision Surgery?

The most common reasons for surgical revision of breast implants are:

The reasons for revisional breast augmentation can be grouped in 3 broad areas:

  • Implant related problems
  • Implant position problems
  • Problems related to the patient’s soft tissue
Patients must be aware that breast implants are not lifetime devices and have a lifespan…. Some patients will require reoperation despite optimal treatment.

I was incredibly apprehensive to have my third breast surgery after 2 horrible experiences resulting in severe asymmetry and capsular contracture. Dr. Zemmel made me feel so comfortable because he was extremely thorough and very professional. He took time to answer any questions and made me feel confident in my decision to do a third surgery 4 years after my initial 2. I am beyond thrilled with my results. I feel great again and my breasts look amazing! My only regret is that I did not do this sooner! Thank you to Dr. Zemmel and his outstanding staff, love them all!

Emily S

August 10, 2016


How Soon After Breast Augmentation Can I Get a Revision?

If you are in need of a breast revision, the ideal time to consider surgery will depend upon several factors, including your overall health and the rate at which you normally heal. Patients are generally advised to wait anywhere between six months to a year after their original procedure before undergoing revision surgery. Rest assured that we will thoroughly examine your concerns and discuss your needs before determining your candidacy for this procedure.

What Can I Expect in My Breast Revision Consultation?

During your initial consultation, our breast surgeon, Dr. Neil Zemmel, will discuss your goals and desires. He will perform a complete medical and surgical history and physical examination focusing on your prior breast implant procedure. If you have any information regarding your prior procedure please bring this to your consultation. Your prior surgeon’s notes, operative reports, previous mammograms, and implant cards will greatly assist Dr. Zemmel in planning your revision. He will then examine the position of your implants, the presence of capsular contracture, the thickness and quality of your overlying breast tissue, muscle, and skin, and the overall shape of your chest and torso. Your plastic surgeon will then recommend a treatment plan.

You will have a full understanding as to the reason revision is required, all aspects of the treatment plan, and recovery.

Through proper preoperative planning and meticulous surgical technique, Dr. Zemmel has minimized revisions while striving to achieve the highest level of patient safety and satisfaction. He believes that by focusing on the prevention of these problems, many revisions can be avoided. Patients must be aware that breast implants are not lifetime devices and have a lifespan similar to artificial joints and prosthetic heart valves. Some patients will require reoperation despite optimal treatment.

What if I Don’t Want My Breast Implants Replaced?

Rather than having them revised or replaced, certain patients will want to have their implants removed entirely. Patients may desire breast explantation surgery because they dislike the look or feel of their implants, or, in much rarer cases, they may require the surgery to correct a complication. If you believe explanation surgery is the best option for you, Dr. Zemmel can review your options during your consultation.

What Are Common Reasons for Breast Revision Surgery?

There are several reasons why a patient may consider breast revision surgery. These reasons range from problems with the implants themselves to abnormal reactions, skin concerns, or other potential complications.

Implant Related Problems

  • Implant Rupture or deflation: This can occur with either saline or silicone implants. Saline implants have a rupture rate of approximately 1.8% per year, while silicone implants have a rupture rate of 1% at 6 years. When a saline rupture occurs, the implant typically deflates over a 24 to 48 hour period. Some women may experience a slower deflation of the implant if the fill valve is faulty rather than rupture of the shell. The saline solution is harmlessly absorbed and excreted. When rupture occurs, replacement is necessary in a timely fashion to prevent collapse of the implant pocket. This will ensure an excellent cosmetic result with minimal recovery. Both Allergan and Mentor warranty their implants against rupture. Silicone implants may require an imaging study such as an MRI to further examine the integrity of the implant shell. If rupture is detected for a silicone implant, replacement will also be recommended. Your surgeon will discuss the warranty options at length during your consultation.
  • Capsular Contracture: All prosthetic implants (artificial joints, screws, plates, etc…) form an interface with your natural tissues. This is your body’s way of separating the implant from your natural body tissues. Usually a thin layer of tissue surrounds the implants and allows your body to “accept” the prosthetic. In rare cases, patients may develop a thick layer of tissue around a breast implant called capsular contracture. In severe cases this can distort the shape of the breast and become painful and harden. Severe cases (Baker grade III and IV) may require surgery to remove the scar tissue and reopen the breast implant pocket.
  • Dissatisfaction with Implant Size: Patients may desire re-augmentation with smaller or larger implants.

Implant Positional Problems

  • High Implants: Implants that remain high in the initial months after surgery. These implants typically have not “dropped.” This is usually caused by incomplete muscle release and may require revision.
  • Symmastia (Uniboob or Breadloafing): The breast appears continuously across the chest with no definite cleavage between the breasts. This is usually caused by medial release of the pectoralis major muscle in an attempt to improve cleavage. However, this creates one continuous pocket between the right and left breasts.
  • Lateral Implants: Implants that are wide apart may be caused by over dissection of the lateral (outside) aspect of the pocket. In worst-case scenarios this can cause the implants to sublux into the armpit area when lying.
  • Low Implants (Bottoming Out): Implants that appear low on the chest wall with abnormally high positioning of the nipple areolas are usually caused by over dissection of the inferior crease of the breast called the inframammary fold. This fold located at the bottom of the breast is a thick ligamentous structure that supports the breast and “locks” it in place on the chest wall. Dividing these ligaments can cause the implants to sublux in a downward direction.

Problems Related to the Patient’s Soft Tissue

  • Snoopy Deformity: Named after Snoopy’s profile, this scenario is caused by breast tissue dropping below the bottom hemisphere of the implant. It can give the appearance of an implant that is high and a nipple that is low, causing it to appear hanging off of the breast. This is typically caused by natural aging with additional sagging of the breast in a patient receiving a breast augmentation who also needs a concurrent breast lift.
  • Areola Enlargement: Some patients experience enlargement of the diameter of the areola after breast augmentation. This is due to stretching of the breast skin and areola skin during implant healing. This situation is usually mild and does not require revision. The possibility of areola enlargement should be discussed prior to surgery.
  • Tuberous Breasts: This breast shape is characterized by a deficiency of skin and breast tissue in the lower pole of the breast. The fold beneath the breast is higher and more narrow than normal. It gives a “constricted” shape to the breast. Herniation of breast tissue through the nipple areola is also seen. Correction of tuberous breast deformity requires additional surgical techniques done concurrently with breast augmentation. Your surgeon will discuss this in depth during your consultation.
  • Atrophy of Breast Tissue: Severe thinning of breast tissue results from placement of very large implants, normal aging, sun exposure, smoking, pregnancy and breastfeeding. This can result in visibility of the implant, movement of the implant pocket, and distortion of breast shape.
  • Asymmetry: A proper physical examination of the breasts before surgery may reveal significant asymmetries. Asymmetries arising from small volume differences between breasts or position of the inframammary folds may be correctable. However, some asymmetries may not be corrected. Those that arise from differences in the bony structure of the rib cage or scoliosis of the spine typically cannot be corrected. Some asymmetries between the breasts are natural and expected.

Miscellaneous Problems

  • Double Bubble Deformity: This is caused by a round appearing implant beneath round appearing breast tissue. There is a visible step-off between the implant and breast tissue giving the appearance of two distinct breast mounds. This may be a problem with selection of the proper implant pocket, capsular contracture, or the need for a breast lift.
  • Rippling: Rippling is when folding irregularities of the breast implant are visible beneath the skin and breast tissue. Rippling may occur when a saline implant is under-filled or leaking, when textured implants are used, or when the patient’s skin and breast tissue are extremely thin. Rippling is often most visible in the outer lower quadrant of the breast where the soft tissue is thinnest. Rippling often is exacerbated by subglandular implant placement.
  • Implant Visibility: Some implants may be visible despite optimal placement. Implants may be visible with or without rippling. Subglandular placement of implants may allow the implants to be visible around the upper portion of the breast giving a “coconut shell appearance.” Other patients with thin soft tissue covering the implant may experience some implant visibility.
  • Implant Palpability: Patients with thin soft tissue covering the breast implant may be able to feel the implant. This is again a function of the thickness of soft tissue covering the implant and should be discussed during a pre-operative visit.
Dr. Zemmel believes that by focusing on the prevention of these problems, many revisions can be avoided.

What Does Breast Implant Revision Involve?

Our surgeon can replace your implants or correct complications using a number of different advanced techniques. Dr. Zemmel has extensive experience altering the positioning and placement of implants to improve upon the outcome of an original breast augmentation. If need be, he can also replace your implant with a different type, shape, or size of implant for optimal results.

Your personalized implant revision surgery may involve the following techniques:

  • Mastopexy (Breast Lift): Depending on the amount of lifting required, several different incisional approaches can be used. For patients requiring a small amount of lifting and tightening of the breast, a Benelli lift (circumareolar lift, donut lift) can be offered. If the nipple areola requires additional lifting and the breast needs tightening in a horizontal direction, a vertical lift (lollipop incision) may be necessary. If the nipple needs to be lifted most of the vertical distance of the breast and maximal tightening is required, a full breast lift with a periareolar, vertical, and inframammary incision (anchor or upside down “T” incision) may be needed.
  • Capsulectomy: Complete removal of the capsule surrounding the implant may be necessary to relieve a capsular contracture. A pocket reassignment (pocket change) may also be necessary to relocate the implant to fresh, unoperated tissue. Placement of acellular dermal matrix (alloderm) within the pocket can also help prevent recurrence of capsular contracture.
  • En Bloc Implant Removal: If a capsulectomy with implant removal is required, such as to treat capsular contracture, Dr. Zemmel prefers to utilize the “en bloc” technique when it is deemed safe. This entails removing the entire capsule (keeping it intact) while the implant is inside. If the implant has ruptured, the saline or silicone material is often trapped within the capsule. By removing the capsule and implant in one piece, the extent of the scar tissue and implant material can be taken out with more ease.
  • Capsulotomy: The term “capsulotomy” refers to making an incision around the borders of the pockets to open and enlarge the pocket. Occasionally the inner front surface of the breast capsule can be incised in order to loosen the tissue and allow it to “accordion” open. The maneuver is typically done in conjunction with capsulotomy. Capsulotomy is also done when exchanging a smaller implant for a larger one in order to make the pocket larger for the new implant, and to reposition an implant.
  • Implant Exchange: “Implant exchange” refers to replacing your existing implants for a different size, silicone or saline, or changing the profile. Other maneuvers may be necessary when changing implants such as capsulotomy, capsulorrhaphy, and capsulectomy. Implants are also exchanged in the event of a saline or silicone breast implants rupture.
  • Areolar Reduction: This refers to reducing the size of the areola by making a circumferential incision around the border of the areola and taking out skin. A “purse string” suture is then placed around the areola and tightened to reduce the diameter. This is done in conjunction with a circumareolar (donut, or Benelli) mastopexy (breast lift).
  • Pocket Change: A pocket change operation refers to the relocation of an implant to either the submuscular position when originally subglandular or vice-versa. Pocket change procedures are typically offered in the event of a severe capsular contracture, to improve the appearance of a subglandular implant, or to place additional soft tissue over the implant.
  • Capsulorrhaphy: This refers to altering the diameter of the pocket to move the location of the pocket or to adjust the height or width. This is typically done by removing a crescent shaped section of the capsule and suturing the remaining edges closed. This can be accomplished through the original breast augmentation incision. This procedure is typically done for lateral subluxation, bottoming out, or symmastia.
  • Symmastia Repair: This term refers to the group of procedures used to repair a symmastia. This is accomplished with suturing the skin overlying the sternum back down to the sternum and the closing off the medial pockets to create two discreet pockets.
  • “Snoopy” Deformity Correction: A “Snoopy” deformity usually requires a breast lift (mastopexy) procedure to lift the hanging breast tissue directly over the implant. This can be done using a circumareolar, vertical (lollipop), or full mastopexy (anchor) incision.
  • Tuberous Breast Deformity: This repair generally consists of three steps: breast augmentation, releasing of breast tissue, and circumareolar mastopexy.

Dr. Zemmel hopes this information will be useful in guiding you during your decision making process. Please schedule a consultation with our office for further information on your unique body needs.

What Are the Risks of Breast Implant Revision Surgery?

Since breast implants alter the body’s natural anatomy, breast revision surgery requires a surgeon to possess both a comprehensive knowledge of anatomy and exceptional skill with breast augmentation techniques. Thinning breast tissue, implant ruptures, and scar tissue can all complicate the procedure. To ensure you are receiving the best possible breast revision, we recommend seeking a board-certified plastic surgeon who is experienced with the additional challenges this surgery presents.

The risks of breast revision surgery are similar to breast augmentation and can include: bleeding, infection, implant rupture, or a change in nipple sensation. Patients who have already experienced capsular contracture may have an increased risk of recurrence. During breast revision surgery, your safety is our top priority. Using board-certified anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists, our surgeon only perform breast revision surgery in fully accredited hospitals and takes special care during the planning stages to design a treatment plan that can meet your expectations. Detailed preoperative and postoperative instructions can also help minimize risk and achieve results that look and feel natural and beautiful.

What Can I Expect During My Breast Revision Recovery?

The recovery for breast revision surgery is typically similar to that of your initial breast augmentation, and in some cases may seem easier or faster. Follow-up appointments with our surgeon are scheduled during the first few days after the procedure to help ensure your recovery goes smoothly. During the first few weeks following your surgery, Dr. Zemmel recommends you limit your physical activity and refrain from lifting any significant amount of weight. During the third week of your recovery, you can begin your surgeon’s recommended scar treatment regime. While changes after your breast revision surgery will be immediately noticeable, the final results of your procedure will become gradually evident as your body continues to heal over the next three to six months. At Richmond Aesthetic Surgery, we are available at any point during your recovery to answer questions and address any concerns you may have. Dr. Zemmel believes our exceptional postoperative care is a key to the beautiful, natural-looking results our patients have achieved.

How Much Does Breast Implant Revision Cost?

The breast implant revision procedure is highly customized to the individual and their specific concerns. On average, the surgery may cost anywhere from $9,000 to $12,000. When you consult with our plastic surgeon, he will listen to your concerns and perform a physical exam to determine how your previous implant results can be improved. Imaging tests may also be required to check for a potential implant rupture. Based on the specifics of your case, your surgeon will help you understand what you can achieve through a revisional surgery. Once a general plan has been decided upon, your surgeon and our staff will provide you with a cost estimate, walking you through the fees associated with your procedure. Since breast augmentation is a cosmetic procedure, revisional surgery is typically not covered by insurance. However, if you are in need of an implant exchange or removal, most breast implant warranties offer extended coverage to account for problems like implant rupture or deflation.

How to Choose a Breast Revision Surgeon

Although similar to a primary breast augmentation procedure, an implant revision tends to be more complex since scar tissue and other complications are typically present. This is why it is important to seek a qualified plastic surgeon to perform the secondary procedure. In addition to finding a surgeon who is experienced with performing breast augmentation, Dr. Zemmel advises women to find a surgeon who has expertise with the implant revision procedure. These professionals are likely to be more skilled with handling potential complications that may arise.

While breast implant revisions often require a more involved surgical process, the right surgeon can help alleviate the concerns you have from your original procedure and create an appearance that restores your confidence. Make sure you find a surgeon who is transparent about what you can expect from your revision, including possible limitations.