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Breast Implant Removal (Explantation)

Approximately 75% of women with breast implants have had them put in for aesthetic augmentation. 25% have had implants for reconstructive purposes (usually following mastectomy for breast cancer). There are many reasons why women seek to have implants removed.

These include:

  • Deterioration of aesthetic result
  • Doesn’t “feel natural”
  • Visible or palpable hardening of implant (capsular contracture)
  • Pain
  • Ruptured Implants
  • Concerns about health impacts of silicone implants (eg Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma or Breast Implant Illness)


The procedure to remove implants is also known as explantation. Whatever your reasons for seeking explantation Chris Powell will be happy to discuss your concerns and discuss the best management for you. The capsule is the scar tissue which forms around the breast implant after it has been placed in the body. The capsule formation is the body’s normal reaction but in some women this can become thickened causing deformation of the implant and in severe cases pain. The capsule is typically removed at the same time as implant removal and is called “capsulectomy” but will depend upon your desires and the details of your case.

Wherever you have had your implants put in it is particularly useful to know what type of implant (Brand, Size, Texture) you have in. This should be in the paperwork from your original surgery or the surgeon/hospital should be able to provide you with those details. 

If you are concerned about the loss of volume that you will have in your breasts once the implants have been removed we can replace that volume using your own fat harvested from other parts of your body in order to recreate a breast that is all “you” and avoids the need for silicone implants. This is called autologous fat transfer or lipomodelling and is a technique that has been honed at Northland Plastic Surgery. Chris Powell will be happy to discuss your suitability for this as part of your consultation to have your implants removed. 

How is it done?

This operation is performed with under general anaesthesia. An incision is made underneath or to the outer side of the breast using a pre existing scar if possible. The implant and the capsule around it are carefully dissected away to avoid injury to the chest wall and achieve complete removal without spillage of the capsule contents (eg leaking silicone).

Specimens of fluid and tissue are routinely taken and analysed to rule out cancer (eg Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma) and infection.

All wounds are closed with dissolvable stitches and a small drain is usually placed to drain excess fluid from the cavity. You will typically be in hospital for a day or two afterwards and the drains are removed before you go home. As the implant and capsule are usually stuck to the chest muscles the wound is moderately sore so you will be prescribed painkillers to take home. Occasionally patients go home with their drains for a short period.

What is the recovery period?

Patients are off work for about two to six weeks after explantation depending upon how physically demanding their job is. You will usually be reviewed one week after surgery to check that wounds are healing satisfactorily and drains removed if necessary.

What are the risk and possible complications?

Complications include bleeding, infection, scarring, haematoma (collection of blood) and seroma (collection of healing fluid). Scarring may cause some tethering of residual breast tissue. There is of course loss of volume of the breasts and a risk of assymetry depending upon how the breasts settle down. There is a small risk of blood clots forming in your legs (Deep Vein Thrombosis) than can travel to your lungs (Pulmonary Embolus). Particularly when implants sit underneath the muscle and the capsule is removed it may be very stuck to the chest wall and a small hole in the lining of the lung (pneumothorax) may be created. This is easily treated but may require you to stay hospital for a few days.

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