If you’re thinking about breast implant removal surgery—whether your personal preferences have changed or you’re experiencing symptoms that may demand their removal—it’s normal to feel apprehensive about what your body might look like, and one of the best ways to combat apprehensiveness is through information. The great news is that if you’re experiencing symptoms related to your breast implants, removing them may have a big impact on your health.

What is breast explant surgery?

Breast implant removal, also known as explant surgery, is a surgical procedure that removes (or explants) the implants from the breast pocket. It’s done for a number of reasons, from the end of their natural lifespan (it’s recommended that you replace your breast implants every 10 years to avoid any complications) to capsular contracture or rupture and even simply just change in your preferences. Sometimes, they’re removed due to the impact they’re having on your health, otherwise known as breast implant illness.

Unfortunately, Breast Implant Illness is still somewhat of a mystery, but it’s thought to be a systemic inflammatory reaction or a rare autoimmune reaction to breast implants or the scar tissue surrounding the implants, but while some who experience BII also get diagnosed with a specific autoimmune or connective tissue disorder, many don’t. Some believe it’s due to breast implant contamination (which is why it’s so important to initially choose a board-certified plastic surgeon for your breast augmentation surgery). Others believe some women may be genetically predisposed to developing an immune reaction to the materials used in breast implants.

Some symptoms of implant sickness that are commonly reported include: 

  • Chronic fatigue and headaches
  • Persistent joint and muscle pain
  • Unexplained respiratory difficulties
  • Hair loss and frequent skin rashes
  • Chronically dry mouth and eyes
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Depression, anxiety, and insomnia

How are breast implants removed?

Just like breasts, not all explant surgeries are the same, and there are generally four kinds of breast implant removal surgeries:

  • A subtotal or partial capsulectomy. A subtotal or partial capsulectomy removes only a part of the scar tissue capsule and likely replaces your implant. Additionally, your surgeon may only need a smaller incision for this type of capsulectomy.
  • Capsulectomy. A capsulectomy is the removal of the breast implant and the breast implant capsule via an incision in the capsule, where the implant is removed first, followed by the capsule. Typically, a capsulectomy is preferred when the breast implant capsule is fused to the muscle or rib cage.
  • Total capsulectomy. A total capsulectomy removes all of the scar tissue capsule, including the scar tissue lining around the implant, and very likely the implant as well, and involves removing the implant first, followed by the capsule.
  • En Bloc Capsulectomy. An en-bloc capsulectomy removes the entire capsule, including the enclosed implant, at the same time and in one piece.

Is breast implant removal surgery safe? 

While all surgeries come with risks, implant removal surgery is overwhelmingly safe. Even your recovery is likely to be pretty low risk, and similar to that of your breast augmentation surgery: three days of solid downtime and relative downtime for at least two weeks. You’ll likely experience soreness, swelling, bruising and sensitivity for a few weeks, but it should subside enough within the first few days to allow you to return to most of your activities without significant discomfort. Most patients can return to light activities within one week and more strenuous exercise after about six weeks. You may also notice you don’t feel mentally like yourself after your explant surgery—don’t worry, it’s completely normal to feel some anxiety and even depression the first week or two following your surgery.

To ensure you have the best possible outcome, Dr. Barrett has curated a breast augmentation recovery kit to set his breast augmentation and breast implant removal patients up for surgical success with the least amount of downtime and discomfort possible.

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