Breast implants are a popular way for female patients to enhance the chest. Breast augmentation can help women who feel their breasts are too small, misshapen, or asymmetrical, while reconstruction allows women to regain their natural shape and appearance.
With a skilled surgeon and a little luck, implants can last for 10 years or more without issue. Still, patients should be aware that they may experience complications such as capsular contracture. To learn what capsular contracture is and how to address it, Dr. Kimberly Henry provides the following treatment advice for her patients in the San Francisco area.
How Capsular Contracture Forms
Capsular contracture is actually a result of your own body’s immune system. Because implants are recognized by your body as non-organic foreign objects, their presence is treated as a threat by your immune system. In response, scar tissue forms around the implant and constricts it in an attempt to seal it off from of your body.
Early stages of capsular contracture are subtle and usually harmless; the condition starts out as a mild hardening of tissue within the breast. But as symptoms progress, the breast will become increasingly tight, tender, and possibly misshapen. The most significant result is pain, hardening of the implant, and a misshapen breast, which are the main reasons for implant revision surgery.
Treat Capsular Contracture Before it Starts
It is not always possible to determine who will develop capsular contracture, but there are certain precautions you can take to lower the risk. One of the most important ways to safeguard yourself is by choosing an experienced plastic surgeon who takes limits bacterial contamination of implants during surgery. Additional precautions include:
- Having your implant placed below your chest muscle. The portion of your implant that is protected by your muscle has a lower risk of capsular contracture forming around it.
- The use of antibiotics after surgery and, occasionally, prior to surgery. This decreases the risk of infection, which may lead to contracture.
- Choosing saline implants. Statistically, saline implants have a lower rate of capsular contracture than silicone.
Some doctors recommend regular breast massage techniques or vitamin E supplements to reduce the risk of capsular contracture. Although these methods pose no risk, there is not sufficient clinical evidence to support their effectiveness.
Treating Capsular Contracture
Once a patient has developed capsular contracture, only effective treatment option is breast implant revision surgery. The preferred method of treatment is surgical removal, called a capsulectomy. During this procedure it is common to have one’s implants replaced, even if they were not yet ruptured. After anesthesia is administered, a capsulectomy proceeds as follows:
- If the original incision for your breast implant procedure was on or around your breast, this same incision may be used. Otherwise, a new incision will be made, usually along the underside of the breast.
- The scar tissue capsule will be removed, either partially or fully.
- If your implants are being replaced at this time, the surgeon will remove your old ones and insert new implants. Some patients take this opportunity to upgrade or downgrade in size.
- The incision is closed and the recovery process begins.
Recovering from a capsulectomy is similar to the recovery from your initial implant surgery: swelling, bruising, and tenderness can be expected, and a tight surgical dressing will be used to hold your breasts firmly in place for a prescribed time. Most patients return to work or similar daily activities within two to three days.
Be proactive and consult your cosmetic surgeon whenever you suspect there may be a complication with your implants. Contact Dr. Henry’s office to set up an appointment and get the personal treatment you deserve.