Removing and Downsizing Breast Implants

Dr. Constance M Chen

Three out of four reconstruction patients will experience at least one complication and many will be unhappy with the way their implants look and feel.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of women in the United States receive breast implants, either to reconstruct a breast lost to cancer or for cosmetic purposes. But three out of four reconstruction patients will experience at least one complication and many will be unhappy with the way their implants look and feel. Women who have had cosmetic implants also suffer complications and are often dissatisfied; almost 30,000 of them had implants removed in 2016.

“There are many medical and cosmetic reasons that women have implants removed,” says board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Constance M. Chen. “Some implants simply fail and must be removed but many women have come to learn that they don’t have to live with implants that are unsatisfactory for any reason. For example, we are seeing women with cosmetic implants who find years or even decades later that the big breasts they once wanted no longer suit them.”

Bigger isn’t always better

Cultural norms change. The appeal of the full-breasted figure of twenty or thirty years ago has given way to a more natural, healthy, athletic look and women have embraced the active lifestyle that produces that body. Many now find that large augmented breasts, especially if they are disproportionately large, are heavy and cumbersome to manage. They may cause the same neck, shoulder and back discomfort that drives women with naturally large breasts to have them reduced. Their breasts may be a hindrance to activities such as running, aerobics, and yoga. One woman who had her implants removed complained that her breasts interfered with her golf swing. Some find it difficult to find clothes that fit well and look flattering.

“Many women who have implants removed have them replaced with smaller implants,” says Dr. Chen, “and some revert to their own natural breasts. The aesthetic result depends on several factors, including how long the implants were in place, and sometimes a breast lift (or mastoplexy) or fat-grafting procedure may be needed to achieve a pleasing profile.”

Breast implants aren’t made to…

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