- Cancer Information
- Managing side effects
- Breast prostheses and reconstruction
- Breast reconstruction
- Implant reconstruction
- Risks of having an implant reconstruction
Risks of having an implant reconstruction
Before the operation, the surgeon will discuss the risks of an implant reconstruction with you. Some of these risks are covered below.
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You’ll be given antibiotics at the time of the operation to reduce the risk of infection. If this does happen, the implant usually has to be removed until the infection clears. The implant can then be replaced with a new one.
Implants don’t last a lifetime. They can leak or break (rupture) because of gradual weakening of the silicone over time. It is recommended that implants are replaced after 10–15 years, or earlier if there are any problems. Your surgeon or GP should check your implants each year.
If a saline implant ruptures, salty water will leak into your body. The salty water is not harmful, but you will need to have surgery to remove the empty silicone envelope and replace the implant.
Hardening of the implant
A fibrous covering can form around a breast implant. If this hardens over time, it may make the reconstructed breast feel firm. This is called capsular contracture, and it is more common after radiation therapy. Capsular contracture can be uncomfortable or painful and may change the shape of the breast. Additional surgery may be needed to remove or replace the implant.
The position of the implant in the body may change slightly over time. This is called implant displacement, descent or rotation. In a small number of cases, the implant shifts a lot and changes the shape of the breast. Further surgery can restore the implant to its original position.
Sometimes implants adhere to the surface of the skin and this can affect how smooth the breast is. This can often be corrected with minor surgery such as lipofilling (the injection of fat from another part of the body under the skin).
Other health problems
There have been reports of a link between a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and textured breast implants. This is known as breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA–ALCL) and it is rare. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recommends women monitor their breasts for any changes such as sudden fluid collection. Implants should be checked yearly by your surgeon or GP.
You can read more about BIA–ALCL on the TGA’s website. The TGA also has an online breast implant hub, where information and support related to breast implants and their safety are updated as new information becomes available. If you are concerned, talk to your surgeon.
Research has not established that silicone breast implants cause autoimmune disorders such as scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. There is also no evidence that implants cause breast cancer.
A/Prof Elisabeth Elder, Specialist Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon, Westmead Breast Cancer Institute and Clinical Associate Professor, The University of Sydney, NSW; Dragana Ceprnja, Senior Physiotherapist and Health Professional Educator, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Jan Davies, Consumer; Rosemerry Hodgkin, Consumer; Gillian Horton, Owner and Director, Colleen’s Lingerie and Swimwear, ACT; Ashleigh Mondolo, Clinical Nurse Consultant Breast Care Nurse, Mater Private Hospital South Brisbane, QLD; Dr Jane O’Brien, Specialist Oncoplastic Breast Cancer Surgeon, St Vincent’s Private Hospital, VIC; Moira Waters, Breast Care Nurse, Breast Cancer Care WA; Sharon Woolridge, Consumer; Rebecca Yeoh, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland.
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