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How Safe Are Breast Implants?

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Breast implants are a popular form of cosmetic surgery in the UK but a key question for any prospective patient is whether this form of surgery is safe.

In this post, leading UK female cosmetic surgeon, Anca Breahna, answers this question, providing information designed to help any prospective patient come to an informed decision.

Any Surgery Has A Degree Of Risk

A point to raise at the start of this post is that any surgery for any purpose has a degree of risk. It is not Anca’s intention, nor should it be the intention of any surgeon to downplay risk and state that any procedure has a 100% success rate.


The question therefore is what is a level of risk that the patient is willing to accept and what specific potential problems can be associated with any surgery.

There is also no level of risk that will be acceptable to all patients, what one person deems an acceptable risk might not be deemed acceptable to someone else. Again, the key is for anybody considering surgery to have full information so they can come to an informed decision that is right for them.

What Are the risks with breast implants?

As with many procedures, there are a number of potential complications but these vary greatly in terms of severity. 

It is worth noting that the weight of scientific research has not linked breast implants to serious health concerns – and this drawing from more than a million such operations in the UK alone. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – MHRA – has also stated that the overwhelming majority of people to have undergone this surgery were happy with the results.

Here are a few issues that you need to consider when contemplating a breast augmentation:

Rupture (tears or holes in the shell) . With silicone-filled implants rupture is usually silent and is an incidental finding during a breast USS or MRI. new generations of silicone implants are made of highly cohesive gel, which means that even if there are tears in the silicone shell, the gel does not spread. Whilst implant rupture does not poses significant risks to the general health and wellbeing , it warrants attention and further surgery to replace or remove the ruptured implant. A patient who has implants therefore has to be aware that at some stage in the future the implant is likely to fail – i.e. rupture.

Capsular contracture. Rupture is not the only problem that requires surgery. In certain cases breast implants can change shape with time as the tissue around the implant hardens, a condition called capsular contracture. When the breast shape is severely altered or they become uncomfortable, surgery becomes the only solution to the problem.

Additional surgeries Over time breast implants wear out and need to be replaced. How long to breast implants last? Breast implants do not typically last a lifetime and it is impossible to predict how long they will last for any patient. What can be said is that they will have an expected lifespan of at least 10 years, the FDA estimates that 20% of women will need the implants replacing or removing inside 10 years.

On this site we tried to answer this question here….. 


BIA-ALCL When prospective patients ask Anca about the safety of breast implants she always discusses the links with BIA-ALCL, or Breast implants and Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma. BIA-ALCL is a rare form of lymphoma that can affect women with breast implants, it is not a form of breast cancer in itself, instead forming on the capsule that surrounds a breast implant.

On this site, we have detailed post that answers key questions about this link and the level of associated risk – we will repeat some of the key points here but please do also take the time to read the separate article.

Systemic symptoms, commonly referred to as “breast implant illness “

Breast implant illness describes a collection of symptoms that many patients feel are caused by their implants. Breast implant illness is not yet a recognized medical condition and the symptoms described by patients are varied and non-specific , such as fatigue, muscle and joint pains, brain fog, fibromyalgia, hair loss, weight gain and urinary symptoms. Patients with such symptoms claim that they appear after having their breast enlargement procedure and many have undergone several tests with their GPs and tried a range of treatments and changes in their lifestyle to help correct with some of their symptoms, usually with little success. Having ruled out other medical causes, many patients feel that the breast implants are responsible and the only way to find out is to have them removed.

Other Potential Problems and Complications

The main safety concerns with breast implants would be infection from the surgery, excessive bleeding during surgery, an allergic reaction to the anaesthetic or a blood clot forming in the legs. However, these are risks associated with surgery in general rather than specific to breast implants, by that we mean that having surgery has inherent risks separate from those specific to the type of procedure.

The Importance of A Consultation

Crucial to all cosmetic surgery is the quality of the initial consultation between patient and surgeon.

The surgeon is not looking to downplay risks, instead they detail the nature of the surgery, the results achievable and answer any concerns and queries.

In many cases, the result of this consultation will be that a decision is made that surgery is not the best option, this could be for health reasons or because the results the patient seeks are not attainable.

An open and honest discussion also helps to prevent another safety concern – namely that the patient suffers mental health issues post surgery. Problems such as depression and negative self image post surgery are most likely if the results do not match the expectation. It is the surgeon’s job to outline the results achievable and also to ensure that surgery truly is in the best interests.

Next Steps

If you would like more information about breast implants, are considering this form of surgery or have concerns about existing implants please contact us for an obligation-free consultation. 

Anca Breahna is a well-established Consultant Plastic Surgeon who has held prestigious fellowships at world-leading institutions.

If you would like to arrange a consultation, please use our Contact Form.

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