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Breast Implant Removal

According to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 235,000 women had breast augmentation surgery in 2003; more than 40,000 had breast implant removal surgeries. This procedure, known as explantation, can be done to decrease the size or to make room for new implants.

Reasons for Breast Implant Removal

The three most common reasons for breast implant removal are change of size and shape, implant leakage or rupture, and capsular contracture.

Sometimes, breast implant removal is necessary to treat problems that occur with the implants.

Other times it may be due to the body's reaction to the implants.

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • diagnosis of breast cancer
  • the formation of scar tissue that tightens around the implant (capsular contracture)
  • necrosis, or the formation of dead tissue around the implant, which may prevent wound healing
  • calcium deposits

Breast implant removal is done under either general anesthesia or local anesthesia combined with IV sedation. The procedure usually takes 30 minutes to an hour and takes place in an outpatient surgical center. Operating through an incision in the inframammary fold (under the breast) or the peri-areolar incision (through the nipple), surgeons carefully remove implants. If the implant is made of saline, doctors may choose to deflate it first to facilitate removal. Breast implant removal usually costs between $1,000 and $4,000.


Initial recovery from breast implant removal surgery is usually quick, with many patients returning to everyday activity within a few days and full activity within two to three weeks. Full recovery often takes a few months. For the first few days after breast implant removal, there may be mild discomfort, swelling and bruising. Some uncommon, but possible, complications include: loss of nipple sensation; scarring; bleeding; and loose skin.

Removal of Large Breast Implants

Occasionally, women who opt for removal of large breast implants, especially those that are inserted subglandularly (on top of the muscle and under the breast glands) are left with major cosmetic deformity in their breasts if they opt to not replace the breast implants or have further cosmetic surgery. Tissue atrophy and chest wall deformity often result from breast implant removal. Breasts may also be smaller than they were before the implants because of hormone changes or weight loss. Sagging may also become more apparent after breast implant removal.

Emotional Effects

Some women suffer from psychological distress after breast implant removal. The change in the body's shape affects some women as profoundly as a mastectomy affects others. It is normal to feel some sadness after witnessing such a drastic body transformation. If psychological symptoms do not subside within a reasonable amount of time after breast implant removal, it is wise to seek treatment from a professional.