How Long Do Breast Implants Last?

Q: Dr. Eppley, do saline implants only last for 5 years? And is it true that you have to be 22 to get silicone breast implants? Im really interested in silicone implants because I’ve heard they last longer but I just recently heard that you have to be 22 to get them.

A: The longevity of breast implants is both unknown and variable. No one can predict with any accuracy how long any breast implant will last. When speaking of the longevity of breast implants one is referring to when it will fail. Failure is defined as when the bag or shell that contains the filler (saline or silicone gel) gets a hole or tear in it. When that happens with saline implants, the detection of failure is immediate as the implant develops an obvious deflation with visible loss of breast size. (i.e., flat tire) When failure occurs in silicone implants, the detection is not immediate and may not be known for a long time as deflation does not occur. This is because silicone gel material can not be absorbed and much of the material may stay in the shell because of its thicker non-liquid material properties. This is why failure in silicone gel breast implants is known as silent rupture. Detection of silicone implant failure may be only found on a mammogram or can be suspected if one breast develops some discomfort or hardening. These differences in how the two types of breast implants fail is why silicone breast implants ‘last longer’ than saline implants.

According to the FDA regulations imposed on breast implant manufacturers (based on the clinical studies for them which did not include patients 21 years or younger), the recommended guidelines for use of silicone breast implants is for patients 22 years or older. What any specific plastic surgeon will do in terms of implantation is between the doctor and the patient.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana