When women go to their physicians to consult about breast implants, they usually have a lot of questions. One of the questions that should concern them regards the life span of breast implants. This question has just as much validity as those regarding safety.

How Long Will My Implants Last?

The lifespan of breast implants is an important factor to consider, for more than one reason. There is a fiscal basis behind the question because breast augmentation involves a considerable financial investment and some time. Having to get this done too frequently would be a significant financial obligation.  The risks, benefits, and alternatives of any surgery should be considered before an informed consent is given.  Having to undergo breast surgery too frequently may create inconveniences in a person’s life and that factor may outweigh the benefits of breast augmentation.  A breast implant is a man-made device, and therefore this device will not last forever.

The lifespan of breast implants is variable.  Breast implants have been analyzed after over 30 years, and it has been determined by a team of researchers at Washington University in St. Louis that the implant shell’s integrity is not compromised by natural degeneration of materials – “the implant shell does not degrade in the body”1.  Though structural problems can and do occur (rarely), what usually causes a ruptured implant is due to some other fault, rather than the implant itself.  These causes include initial handling of the implant, damage done by surgical tools, accidents involving impact to the implant outside or inside the body, and wrinkling of the implant causing a breakdown of the outer shell.  According to Dr. Harold Brandon1, a silicone implant can withstand a blow up to 25 times the force of a normal mammogram, without rupturing.  The causes for implant ruptures are numerous, but avoidable, for the most part.  It is important to note that those who choose implants should expect at least some maintenance, but this maintenance will not be necessarily due to fault in the implant itself.

Over the years, many studies have been conducted on the chances of rupture in various groups of women.  However, a study conducted in 2003 looked at implant rupture through repeated MRI examinations.  This technique of study provided a valid design in that third-generation implants were studied via a method that allowed for random sampling, removing any bias from the research.  Results of 317 breast implants studied showed that after five years, 98 percent of the implants remained intact. Over a 10-year period, 83-85 percent remained intact2.

If you have more questions about the life span of breast implants, consult your plastic surgeon. He or she can give you expert advice about the maintenance of your implants and their eventual replacement. Choosing a good and competent surgeon is an important first step to avoid any initial complications and to assure that any necessary maintenance is done efficiently and effectively.

  1. Brandon, H. (2010). Exploring Research on the Strength and Durability of Silicone Gel-Filled Breast Implants. http://www.breastimplantanswers.com/expert_durability.html
  2. Holmich, LR, et al. “Incidence of Silicone Breast Implant Rupture.” Arch Surg 2003; 138(7):801-806.