Are Breast Implants Safe?

Breast augmentation is a surgical procedure to change the size, shape, or symmetry of a woman’s breasts. While breast implants are considered safe and effective in most cases, there are some potential risks that should be weighed before deciding if the procedure is right for you. You’ve already weighed the benefits of improving your current physical appearance and have decided to move forward with breast augmentation; now it’s time to understand the risks. One of the most important things you can do to prepare for your procedure is to choose the right doctor. Dr. Michael Howard believes in empowering his patients through consultation, procedure, and post-operative care to ensure that every patient is as comfortable and confident as possible. But he starts with blog posts like this to inform not only his patients and future patients but the community at large so that everyone can make the best decision for themselves, taking in all the pros and cons.

Take a look at the information below, and when you’re ready to schedule a breast augmentation, call (224) 271-4250 for our scheduling coordinator. We proudly serve the Lake Forest, Chicago, and Glenview, IL communities.

The Pros and Cons of Breast Implants

There are many means to improve your breasts’ size, shape, and symmetry. These include cosmetic surgery such as breast augmentation, breast lift (mastopexy), fat transfer, and more. Breast implants are a popular way to augment the size of your breasts while also restoring fullness in cases of natural volume loss due to weight fluctuations, pregnancy & breastfeeding, or aging.

The pros include:

  • Enhanced size, shape, and symmetry of the breasts
  • Most patients are highly satisfied with the results
  • The procedure is relatively quick
  • Silicone implants offer a natural look and feel

As with any surgery, the cons include the risk of infection or reaction to the anesthesia. But what about the risk of having implants inside your body? You may remember a recall of silicone implants in the early 1990s due to reports of implants leaking or rupturing. As the international medical community grew increasingly aware of implants through research, it was evident that issues were not widespread but rather localized and primarily included capsular contracture, rupture, and reoperations. [1] Today’s silicone and saline implants are considered safe.

Breast Implant Safety Considerations

The FDA has approved silicone and saline breast implants, but there is still a risk of rupture or leakage. It is essential to follow your surgeon’s post-operative instructions, like wearing supportive bras and avoiding strenuous activities to help protect your implants. Additionally, it is recommended that you get an MRI three years after your surgery and every two years following to check the status of your implants.

What is Capsular Contracture?

When the implant is initially inserted, a capsule of fibrous material envelops it. Initially, this capsule is soft and thin so that there are minimal changes in appearance; however, as time passes, it gradually thickens and hardens, which can lead to shrinking breast contours causing varying levels of discomfort from slight tenderness all the way up to severe pain.

There is a broad range of capsular contracture rates, varying from as little as 1.3% to up to 30%, among patients who have received implants. [2] The probability of developing contracture increases with the duration of implants, thus inferring a direct relationship between when the implant is inserted and how long it takes for the contracture to develop. An astounding 92% of capsular contractures will likely develop within the first year after surgery. [1] Additionally, breast reconstruction patients are far more prone to capsular contractures than those undergoing aesthetic augmentation, with a rate of 10.4% reported. [3]

It is important to note that there are no current FDA-approved devices to prevent or treat capsular contracture, and the FDA requires breast implant manufacturers to conduct long-term studies to collect data on the safety and effectiveness of their products. Therefore, it is in your best interest to speak with a board-certified plastic surgeon like Dr. Howard to discuss the latest techniques and materials available.

The New Silicone Implants

After a lengthy hiatus of fourteen years, the FDA gave implant manufacturers Allergan and Mentor permission to produce and sell silicone gel breast implants for general use in America; this applied to reconstructive surgeries and aesthetic purposes. After extensive research, the informed consent process, implants, surgical techniques, and follow-up methods have vastly improved. 

As a result of this unwavering commitment to uncovering facts and promoting transparency, public faith in plastic surgery has been renewed; this is evidenced by the growing number of breast implant procedures being performed today. Over the course of seven years, the demand for breast augmentation surgery has seen an immense increase in popularity. From 2000 to 2006, it rose a whopping 64% and continued its steady growth with a 6% rise from 2006 to 2007. In fact, breast augmentation is now the most requested aesthetic procedure among Americans today! [4]

What is the Rate of Implant Sickness Today?

Throughout the 1990s, countless women experienced maladies due to breast implants. These included neurological and rheumatological difficulties, which were said to be caused by the devices. After a decade-long study, the Institute of Medicine reported that silicone gel and saline-filled breast implants posed no safety risks or health issues. Furthermore, the research uncovered no new threats to health when using these devices. [5]

Symptoms of implant sickness included:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Memory loss
  • Headaches
  • Other chronic illnesses

Despite this, the FDA has not found any scientific data to support the existence of a “breast implant illness.” The FDA has, however, declared that breast implants could cause several local complications, including infection, implant rupture, capsular contracture, and wrinkling. In rare cases, some women have experienced autoimmune reactions, which may include symptoms such as chills, fever, malaise, and swollen lymph nodes.

Although the FDA does not endorse any specific follow-up methods for patients with breast implants, they suggest that patients receive routine aftercare appointments to ensure the safety of their implants. Additionally, the FDA recommends discussing any signs or symptoms of implant complications with their healthcare provider as soon as possible.

What is Cohesive Gel?

One benefit of the new generation of breast implants is a more cohesive gel. The silicone gel used for breast implants has been referred to as “cohesive” since the 1980s. However, this term only recently accurately represents what is currently being utilized in modern-day implants; a solid form compared to the liquid consistency of its predecessor.

Today’s cohesive gel is a thicker, more stable implant that holds its shape better and is less likely to leak or rupture should damage occur to the implant shell; this means a reduced risk of silicone leakage into the body. Additionally, cohesive gel implants are available in various shapes and sizes to better suit patients’ aesthetic goals.

What Should I Do if My Implant is Damaged?

You must contact your doctor immediately if one of your implants is damaged. They can determine if the implant needs to be replaced. It is also recommended to get a mammogram every year and MRI scans every two years after the completion of the surgery, as these scans will allow your doctor to monitor the implant properly and check for any signs of damage.

Furthermore, implants have a shelf-life and must be replaced approximately every 10-15 years. Implants are replaced to prevent a breakdown of the material and to ensure that the shape of the breast remains unchanged over time. Replacing them periodically ensures that your breasts remain looking and feeling their best.

Overall, breast implants are still a safe and effective way to enhance the size and shape of your breasts. Knowing the facts about capsular contracture, implant sickness, and cohesive gel can help you make a more informed decision about the type of surgery that is right for you. With careful consideration and proper follow-up, you can enjoy breast augmentation’s benefits for many years.

Are Implants Right for Me?

Medical professionals have provided women safe and effective results with improved materials, techniques, and research. However, it is important to remember that deciding to get breast implants should not be taken lightly. Before undergoing the procedure, you should consult with a qualified plastic surgeon like Dr. Howard to discuss your goals, medical history, and any potential risks or complications associated with breast augmentation.

Breast implant surgery can boost self-confidence and improve your figure’s appearance, but potential risks are involved. While Dr. Howard is here to answer your questions, you must understand the risk involved, and reading this article is your first step! We hope we have provided you with the information you need to make an informed decision. Ultimately, breast implants can be a great way to improve your self-confidence and help you achieve the body of your dreams.

Schedule Your Consultation Today

Contact Dr. Howard today to schedule a consultation if you are considering breast augmentation. During your consultation, Dr. Howard will take the time to answer any questions you may have and discuss the various options available for breast implant surgery.

Your safety and satisfaction are his top priority, and he will ensure you know the risks and benefits associated with the procedure before moving forward. With more than 20 years of experience, Dr. Howard has the expertise to help you achieve your desired results safely and effectively. Don’t wait any longer – schedule your consultation with Dr. Howard today! Call (224) 271-4250 to get started.


  1. Spear SL, Parikh PM, Goldstein JA. History of Breast Implants and the Food and Drug Administration. Clinics in Plastic Surgery. 2009;36(1):15-21. doi:10.1016/j.cps.2008.07.007
  2. Handel N, Cordray T, Gutierrez J, Jensen JA. A Long-Term Study of Outcomes, Complications, and Patient Satisfaction with Breast Implants. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 2006;117(3):757-767. doi:10.1097/01.prs.0000201457.00772.1d
  3. Taylor CW, Horgan K, Dodwell D. Oncological aspects of breast reconstruction. The Breast. 2005;14(2):118-130. doi:10.1016/j.breast.2004.08.006
  4. 2000/2006/2007 National Reconstructive and Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Statistics, American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Available at:
  5. Yu P. Breast reconstruction at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Gland Surgery. 2016;5(4):416-421. doi:10.21037/gs.2016.05.03
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