Generally speaking, there are a few reasons women who undergo breast augmentation or breast reconstruction with implants later wish to have them removed, says Melissa Doft, MD, a double board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon and founder of Doft Plastic Surgery in New York City:
- Capsular Contracture: The most common reason for removal, according to Dr. Doft, the condition occurs when the capsule that forms around the implant hardens, distorting the implant and potentially causing pain.
- Patient Preference: Some women decide they simply no longer want to have implants. “They may have had them placed 20 years ago and find that the size no longer fits their body,” Dr. Doft says.
- Breast Implant Illness (BII) Symptoms: Breast implant patients sometimes describe symptoms like fatigue, chronic pain, hair loss, headaches, photosensitivity, sleep disturbance, and depression (to name a few) that may be attributed to the implants. “It is unclear if BII is a real disease, as removing the implant often does not improve symptoms,” Dr. Doft explains.
Just this week, Chrissy Teigen shared on social media that she is planning to have her implants removed “soon” because they no longer serve her. “I’m getting my boobs out! They’ve been great to me for many years but I’m just over it,” she wrote, in part, on Instagram. “I’d like to be able to zip a dress in my size, lay on my belly with pure comfort! No biggie! So don’t worry about me!”
Whether your preferences have changed like Teigen or you are experiencing complications from breast augmentation, anyone considering breast implant removal likely has a lot of questions: What does the breast implant removal surgery entail? What will my breasts look like afterwards? Are additional procedures required? Here, we break down everything you need to know about the process.
The Breast Implant Removal Process
Women considering breast implant removal should first consult with a board certified plastic surgeon to assess the state of their implants and discuss their aesthetic goals and/or concerns. In many cases, the explant is a fairly straightforward cosmetic procedure during which the surgeon will remove the implant from the breast capsule (i.e. the pocket the body forms around the foreign substance). In some cases, conditions like capsular contraction, deflation, or rupture may make the removal surgery more complex, but desired results can still be achieved.
Similar to how breast implants are placed, breast implant removal surgery requires an incision to be made along the lower fold of the breast (i.e. the inframammary fold) or around the areola. From there, surgeons will remove the implant and, in most cases, the breast capsule as well.
How Breasts Look After Implant Removal
As Dr. Doft explains, the shape and condition of the breasts after implants are removed depends on three factors:
- The size of your breasts before implants
- The size of the implants placed
- Body changes while having implants (think: weight loss or gain, pregnancy, menopause)
It should come as no surprise that larger implants will have a larger effect on the natural breast than smaller ones. “Larger implants will lead to more distortion of the breasts — saggy skin and deflation,” Dr. Doft says. “A smaller implant will have less effect on the skin.” As such, removing small implants often results in what she describes as a “very natural,” “slightly ptotic” (read: saggy) breast.
Similarly, women who naturally had smaller breasts pre-implants will see less of an effect post-implants. “If you had very small breasts before the implants, there is less of a change than if you had larger breasts as there is less skin and breast tissue to sag,” she explains. “Hormonal and weight changes will often make your breasts saggier, and, without the extra volume of the implant, your breasts will look more deflated and ptotic.”
Age also plays a role in how the breasts recover from implant removal. “Small breasts in young women may contract back to close to where they were,” Dr. Doft notes. “Older patients have less elastin and collagen in their skin and are less likely to revert back.”
Achieving the Best Breast Implant Removal Results
If someone truly wishes to have their breast implants removed, Dr. Doft always recommends a “complete removal.” But, to ensure patients are happy with their breasts post-op, she may suggest coupling it with additional procedures. “If the implant is large, they have loose skin, or they wish to have the best possible breast shape with their natural tissue, I often recommend a breast lift at the same time as the implant removal,” she says.
And it’s not just additional breast surgeries that patients may add onto a breast implant removal. “Often, women who are removing breast implants are at the ‘next stage’ of life — meaning that they had implants placed in their twenties or early thirties and now it is 20 years later,” Dr. Doft shares. “They may want to have their eyes done, a facelift, or a body contouring procedure, like a tummy tuck or liposuction.”
Assuming the patient is a candidate for such procedures, doubling (or tripling) up can be more economical for two reasons: “The cost of surgery is often less when multiple procedures are added together and the cost of downtime — time off from work, increased babysitting, vacation days — are less,” she says.
Whether a patient is dealing with complications from breast implants or simply no longer wishes to have them, breast implant removal is often the best solution. Depending on factors like the size of the implants, the size of natural breasts, and the age of patient, breast sagging and deflation can occur post-op. In those cases, procedures like mastopexy (a.k.a. breast lift) can be performed in conjunction with the removal procedure to improve results. It should also be noted that, if a patient is simply interested in downsizing their current implants, a breast implant replacement — using a smaller size — is an option. Consulting with a board certified plastic surgeon will ensure patients get the best treatment for their needs.
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