Q: I had saline breast implants placed in 2003. Last week I developed some mild discomfort in my right breast which was just sort of achy. I thought my right breast was getting smaller right after but now I know for sure. My right breast looks much smaller than my left now so I think I have developed the dreaded deflation. I remember something about a warranty program in case this happens. What do I have to do now to get my breast implant replaced for free?
A: The risk of saline breast implant deflation is always a lifelong possibility. While most patients will enjoy the benefits of their saline breast implants for an average of 10 to 15 years, deflation can certainly occur much earlier. Since breast implant failure is one of the known complications of breast augmentation, patients need to be aware of the manufacturer’s warranties. There are two levels of implant manufacturer warranties; implant replacement and monetary contribution to the cost of replacement surgery. Over the years these two warranties have changed and it is important to contact the manufacturer (Mentor or Allergan) and find out what was in effect from that manufacturer in 2003.
In general, replacement of a failed breast implant is usually lifelong and never goes away. Money to be provided to help defray the cost of replacement surgery is usually time limited at 10 years currently. (less in 2003) That amount was $3500 in 2010 but likely was only $1200 in 2003. That money is not given up front to the patient but only months after the surgery is completed so patients have to wait to get their partial reimbursement. (the failed implant must be returned and evaluated first to determine the cause of failure)
One important point of confusion in replacement surgery is that the warranty is given by the breast implant manufacturer as it is a medical device. These warranties do not apply to the implanting plastic surgeon, operative facility or the anesthesiologist.
Dr. Barry Eppley