Breast augmentation is one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures available, but that doesn’t mean every breast implant is perfect. In fact, it is a standard disclaimer that some breast implants are not right for the patient, which is why we speak frankly with patients about the possibility of conditions such as capsular contracture developing after surgery. At Palms Wellington Plastic Surgery in West Palm Beach, FL we are committed to providing patients with reliable information about all of our procedures, including conditions patients should be aware of following breast augmentation.
How Long Does It Take for Capsular Contracture to Occur?
When patients hear about capsular contracture, one of the first things they want to know is how soon this condition can occur. The simple truth is that this condition can develop at any time after having breast implant surgery. Developing this condition depends on what kind of implant you have and how well your body responds to the surgery. However, there are three times when this condition is more likely to develop.
Sometimes this condition develops during your healing process, typically within the first four to six weeks following your breast implant surgery. Developing this condition while you are still recovering from the surgery can indicate that your body is not compatible with the implant, that there is a problem with an implant, or that you are healing improperly from the surgery. However, developing this condition during your healing time is relatively uncommon.
Most cases of this condition occur within the first two years of your breast implant surgery. In fact, about 75% of cases of this condition occur within this two-year time frame, which is generally the time when all scar tissue associated with the surgery has finished internal healing. Developing this condition within the first two years of your surgery is considered an early development because most breast implants can last for 10 to 20 years.
Late development of this condition is more common after about 10 to 15 years. Depending on the type of implants you have, late development could indicate the implant has begun to break down or has been damaged in some way. Late development of this condition is about as common as developing the condition during the healing process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there anything else you should know about this condition other than how soon it could potentially occur? Absolutely. Many patients prefer to have a clear understanding of this condition, including what it feels like, what causes it, and how the condition is treated. If you still have questions, our skilled staff are prepared to answer all your questions when you call to schedule your visit.
What Is Capsular Contracture?
This is a condition caused by the immune system that occurs when the scar tissue around a foreign material begins to tighten. For breast implants, contracture develops as a healing response to the implant, which causes the implant to be squeezed by the scar tissue. The condition is not necessarily painful, but it can make the breasts feel hard and tight.
What Are Common Symptoms?
The symptoms of this condition have a gradual onset that may take months or years for you to notice. There are no obvious visual signs, such as discolored skin or rashes, that are associated with this condition. The most common symptoms of this condition include:
- Firmness of breast
- Tightness of breast
- Misshapen breast
- Discomfort while lying down
- Rippling implant
- Distortion during mammogram
What Does This Condition Feel Like?
For most patients, the first sign of this condition is a noticeable change to the texture of the breasts. Breast tissue after implants will have a more solid feel than breast tissue before implants. However, even breasts with implants will have a “soft” or “bouncy” texture, which means that when this condition develops, there will be a definite shift in the feel of the breast.
Many patients report the skin and tissue of their breasts feeling “tight,” as if the skin is pulled too firmly over the breast. The implant itself may begin to feel more firm, as if it the implant is hardening or becoming too solid. Some patients even notice the tightness starting near incision sites, where the scar tissue is most likely to develop. Overall, patients can feel the development of this condition at home during self-examination.
Is This Condition Common?
About 30% of patients who have had breast implants or other augmentation procedures will experience this condition, with about 10% of those patients developing the condition during the initial healing phase. This condition is very common and very treatable. If you have developed this condition, it is not a cause for concern as there are several methods of treatment.
What Causes This Condition?
This condition occurs when scar tissues and collagen fibers in the breast tightening over a breast implant. But what causes the condition? While physicians aren’t sure what prompts the immune system response to contract scar tissue around the implant, there are a few factors that could cause this condition, including:
- Bacterial contamination
- Rupturing implant
- Implant incompatibility
- Leaking implant
- Damage to implant
- Breast injury
The most common factors associated with this condition are likely a ruptured, leaking, or otherwise damaged implant that has prompted the immune system to begin healing again, which is what tightens the scar tissue. Another common factor is a basic incompatibility between the implant and the patient’s biology.
Can You Prevent This Condition?
Unfortunately, we have no way of predicting who will develop this condition, which means there is very little that can be done in terms of prevention. Some surgeons recommend daily breast massages to prevent breast collagen fibers from hardening. The development of this condition depends on the patient’s individual immune system response and how well the patient heals from the surgery.
Does This Condition Go Away Untreated?
This condition is not one that goes away if untreated. Unlike other scar tissue, which can fade or reduce over time, the scar tissue associated with this condition will continue to tighten over the implant. However, there are ways to reduce your chances of developing this condition, such as daily massages of the breast implant.
How Is Capsular Contracture Treated?
There are various ways in which this condition can be treated. At our office, we prefer one of two methods of treatment that are proven to have high rates of efficacy. These treatments include:
The first treatment option is breast implant removal, which is when we completely remove both the breast implant and any surrounding scar tissue that could be causing the contracture. Removal is the best option for patients who are dissatisfied with their breast augmentation or who no longer wish to have breast implants. The amount of scar tissue removed by the surgeon depends on how thick or thin the layer of scar tissue is on the breast.
The second treatment option is a breast implant replacement. This is more common for patients who develop contracture early during the healing process and who would still prefer to have breast implants. For breast implant replacement, both the old implants and the scar tissue is removed from the breast and then the new implant is placed.
Are There Other Treatments?
Recent advancements in technology have made non-surgical treatments for this condition possible. Non-surgical treatments are ideal for patients who have minor contracture and who do not want to remove or replace breast implants. The most popular non-surgical treatment available is with ultrasound massage, which can help temporarily break up scar tissue.
What Can You Expect During Treatment?
If you have this condition, are there certain steps you can expect during treatment? At our office, we typically have at least three stages of treatment, which include:
If you suspect you may have contracture, then you will need to attend a consultation appointment. The consultation will include an examination of your breasts, particularly the implants and the incision site. Similar to a breast exam by an OB/GYN, we will palpitate the breast to assess the level of tightness and firmness of the implant and breast tissue.
If we suspect you do have contracture, we will then discuss your treatment options and your expectations for treatment. This may include exploring other types of implants you can have or other forms of breast augmentation so you can be satisfied with your overall appearance after you have been treated for this condition.
After your consultation, we may send you to complete certain exams. Typically, we like to verify contracture by using a sonogram or ultrasound to examine the breast implant and scar tissue around the implant. This exam will give us a better idea of the degree of your contracture and the best way to treat the condition. We may also have you complete a mammogram.
Your treatment will depend on which method you have chosen to correct this condition. Most often this means scheduling a breast surgery for removing or replacing the implants. Treatment can be done under a local or general anesthetic, which is determined by the degree of severity of your contracture. We will discuss which option is best for treating your condition after you have completed the consultation and exams.
Recovery from treatment will resemble your recovery from the initial breast implant surgery. If you have opted to remove both the implant and the scar tissue, then your recovery should take about four weeks; if you have chosen to replace your implants, then you can expect the recovery to take about eight weeks before you are fully healed. We recommend patients avoid strenuous activity and sleep on their backs until the end of the recovery period.
Who Are Good Candidates for Treatment?
Good candidates for treatment are determined by consultation. We will have to verify that you have developed this condition rather than another breast condition, such as fibroadenoma, which is a type of small breast lump that can feel similar to tightening scar tissue in the breast. Most patients who have confirmed contracture are qualified for treatment. You may be a good candidate if you have:
- Discomfort while lying down
- Tight or firm breast implants
- Hard breasts
- Suspected damage to the implant
- A possible implant rupture or leak
- Sustained an injury to the breast
Correct Your Capsular Contracture Today!
If you have noticed a change in the feel of your breast implant, such as tightness or firmness of the breast, then it is likely you have developed this condition. Thankfully, treatment for this condition is available to all patients. If you are ready to correct your capsular contracture, contact Palms Wellington Plastic Surgery in West Palm Beach, FL to schedule your consultation.
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