How long do breast implants last?

John F. Burnett, MD
Plastic Surgery
The real length of time breast implants last is not really known, but some women have had breast implants for over 20 years. Saline implants have been studied for the first 10 years after implantation and the deflation rate is about 5 to 6 percent over that time. With silicone implants, there have been no reliable studies to determine if they leak. An MRI is recommended every three years but most people don’t do that. Instead they rely on their yearly mammograms to give them an indication if the implant is intact or ruptured.

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Thomas A. Imahiyerobo, MD
Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery
Most breast implant companies recommend replacement of implants every 10 years. Typically speaking if the implants do not show any clinical signs of problems there is no set date or time when they have to be replaced.  
Tara Whitworth
Breast implants do not last forever and will most likely need to be replaced at some point in a woman’s life. Over time, the normal wear and tear may cause the implant to leak or rupture. With saline implants, the rupture will be obvious as the implant will deflate. The saline from the implant is harmless and will be absorbed by the body. It’s much more difficult to tell if a silicon implant has ruptured. For this reason, it is recommended that women with silicone implants have an MRI every 2 years to check for leaks.

Implants may need to be replaced for other reasons too, such as capsular contracture. The general consensus is that breast implants will last from 10 to 25 years.
Stuart A. Linder, MD
Plastic Surgery
In general, saline and silicone implants are not lifetime devices. According to the two FDA approved manufacturers in the United States of America, Mentor Corporation (Johnson and Johnson) and Natrelle implants (Allergan Pharmaceuticals) breasts implants themselves are not lifetime devices. In general, it is thought that implants last approximately 10 years or should be replaced every eight to 10 years. A ruptured saline implant is clinically obvious as the breast will deflate and there will be great asymmetry. A ruptured silicone implant is more difficult to determine and is referred as a silent rupture. MRIs should be performed every three years with silicone implants to determine the integrity of the shell of the silicone implant. Saline implants should be filled at least to their minimal fill volume or better yet towards the upper range of their fill volume to reduce visibility, rippling and increased risk of rupture. In general, saline and silicone implants should be replaced at least every 10 to 15 years depending upon rupture, scar tissue contracture or volume changes over time.
Erik A. Hoy, MD
Plastic Surgery
The implants themselves will last forever. They are not biodegradable.However, the question is better posed as, "How long can the structural integrity of breast implants be trusted?" Here, the type of implant comes into play, as does the volume of fill within it.

All silicone containing implants are filled to their manufacturer recommended volume (since they are filled by the manufacturer). While a silicone breast implant rupture has more implications than does a saline-filled implant, there are more variables with the act of saline filling of the implant.

"Saline-filled" implants is often a misnomer.Since the surgeon fills the saline implant during the operation, he or she determines how much volume to add. They may decide to under- or over-fill the implant for reasons related to final size of the augmented breast, desired texture of the breast, and the avoidance of rippling or creasing of the implant.

This last feature is most important, since an underfilled implant is more prone to wrinkle, fold and eventually fail due to mechanical stresses called "fold-flaws". Manufacturers do not recommend underfilling of the implants for this reason. While the exact timing of breast implant replacement is controversial, most would probably agree that they should be replaced every 10 years or so.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.