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How Long Do Saline Implants Last?

Results of a Multi Center Study

Scott Spear, MD, presented some interim results of a "Prospective Multi-Center Trial of Saline and Silicone Filled Breast Implants" at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in Los Angeles in May 1998. This study included 56 sites for saline implants, and is planned to run for ten years. Dr. Spear presented four year results.

These results are per patient (not per implant) and are presented with the 95% Confidence Interval (meaning that, like all studies, the numbers presented are estimates, and there is a 95% chance that the actual value is within the range presented)

4 Year Risk Rates, Saline Implants for Augmentation, Per Patient
  4 Year Risk 95% Confidence Interval
Infection 1% 0%-2%
Capsular Contracture 7.8% 5.2%-10.4%
Deflation 8.9% 5.9%-11.9%
Explantation 14.1% 10.6%-17.6%

Capsular Contracture means tightening of the scar around the implant, causing the implant to feel hard. This probably occurs in all implants to some degree. Dr. Spear did not say how Capsular Conrtracture was defined in this study. Explantation refers to removal of one of the original implants for any cause (including, for example deflation), regardless of whether the implant was replaced.

Importantly, the early deflation rate is higher than many of us have thought; 8.9% per patient over 8 implant-years (two implants per patient) is about 1% risk of deflation per implant-year, at least over the first four years. My personal belief is that all saline implants will eventually deflate if left in place long enough, and that is what I tell each of my patients. When an implant deflates, it should be replaced within two weeks, in order to prevent shrinkage of the capsule that develops around any implant. The initial operation should incorporate planning for eventual implant replacement. Replacement is quite straightforward when the incision under the breast is used, and that is one reason that I prefer that incision. Replacement through the incision in the underarm (axilla) will be more difficult, and may be impossible if modification of the implant capsule is necessary.

More information from this study.

This information is provided for general information only. Please consult with your local Plastic Surgeon for specific information about your own situation. I recommend that you see a Plastic Surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. In the United States and Canada, call 800/635-0635 or 888/4PLASTIC for the names of board-certified Plastic Surgeons in your area.

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