Breast implant removal is a surgical procedure to take out implants that a surgeon initially inserted as part of cosmetic or reconstructive surgery. Health insurance plans may sometimes cover the costs of the procedure, depending on why the person required implants initially and the reason for removal.

The procedure can lead to complications, so a person should weigh the benefits and risks with a healthcare professional before undergoing surgery.

This article covers what a person should expect from the procedure, the estimated costs, and more information to consider in regard to breast implant removal.

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Breast implant removal surgery is a procedure that removes implants from previous breast augmentation or reconstruction surgery. As with other surgical procedures, it offers potential benefits but has associated risks.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), doctors may also remove scar tissue that developed due to the initial implants. Hardened scar tissue can be painful or uncomfortable. However, if it softens, the doctor may not need to remove it.

There are several reasons why a person might want or need to undergo implant removal.

Implants last for about 10–15 years. After that time, people who are healthy enough need to replace or remove them.

In some cases, breast implants may leak. Both saline and silicone implants can rupture or leak, and the likelihood of a leak increases over time. When it occurs, a person may notice that the breast has become misshapen.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that a person get an MRI scan 5–6 years after the implant surgery and once every 2–3 years following that. If a doctor discovers a rupture, they will need to replace or remove the implant.

Another medical reason for the removal is capsular contracture, which refers to the formation of scar tissue around the implant. This condition can be painful, and removing the implant can help resolve it. Similarly, a person may ask a surgeon to remove the implants due to pain resulting from another cause or because of an infection.

In some cases, a person may simply wish to remove the implants because they no longer want them or they want to replace them with a different size or type.

The ASPS recommends that a person take certain steps to prepare for the implant removal surgery. These include:

  • stopping smoking, if applicable
  • taking only certain medications leading up to the procedure and talking with the surgeon about what medications are safe
  • avoiding anti-inflammatory medication, herbal supplements, or aspirin
  • undergoing a medical evaluation to make sure that they are healthy enough for the procedure
  • organizing transportation to and from the hospital

A person should also plan to ask as many questions as necessary to make sure that they are a good candidate for the procedure and to confirm that the surgeon is well-qualified.

A board certified surgeon typically performs the procedure in a hospital setting. They will need to use either general anesthesia or sedation, depending on which is best for the person.

Once the person is sedated, the surgeon will make an incision around the areola, under the areola, or in the lower fold of the breast.

After they make the incision, the surgeon will remove the implant and breast capsules. They will then close the incision using adhesives, sutures, or clips.

Following the procedure, the breast shape will change. A person may notice that their breasts are flatter and less firm. They may also have more irregularities or indentations than they did before the surgery due to the presence of scar tissue.

Immediately after the surgery, healthcare professionals will dress the wound with gauze and drains as necessary. Drains are small silicone tubes that remove fluid and blood from the wound while a person heals.

They may also provide the person with supportive bras or other garments for added comfort.

In some cases, a doctor may recommend wearing a compression garment to help reduce swelling.

During recovery, it is important for the individual to follow all instructions from their surgeon and medical team. Some potential care instructions may include:

  • tips on caring for the incision
  • a time frame for follow-up care and checks
  • medications to help reduce infection risk or speed up the healing
  • signs to watch for infection or other issues that occur due to the surgery

The healing process can take several weeks.

The exact benefits can vary depending on the reason for the procedure. The procedure can fix or remove a ruptured implant to stop pain. It can also allow a person to change or completely remove their implants for cosmetic purposes.

Similar to any surgery, implant removal has potential risks and may not be a good option for everyone. A surgeon should make sure that the person who wants the surgery is aware of all the possible risks.

The potential complications of the surgery include:

  • anesthesia risks
  • hematoma, which is an area of blood that collects outside of a larger blood vessel
  • bleeding
  • fat necrosis, which is when fatty tissue deep in the skin dies
  • the incision not healing correctly
  • cardiac and pulmonary complications
  • numbness or other changes in nipple or areola sensation
  • seroma, which is the buildup of fluid in areas where surgeons have removed tissue
  • deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot
  • infection
  • breast asymmetry
  • scarring
  • recurrent looseness of the skin
  • numbness or other changes in skin sensation
  • persistent pain
  • loss of skin
  • possibility of revision surgery
  • discoloration of the skin or prolonged swelling

The cost of implant removal surgery can vary. However, the ASPS states that the average cost in 2020 was about $3,049. This figure, however, does not include other expenses, such as those relating to the operating room facilities, anesthesia, and medical screenings, such as X-rays.

In some cases, a surgeon may offer a payment plan to help a person pay over time instead of all at once.

Some health insurance plans may also cover the costs. According to the National Center for Health Research, the circumstances of the original implants and the reason for removal will determine whether Medicare, Medicaid, or other insurance plans cover the cost.

Legally, an insurance company must cover the costs if a person needs implants due to undergoing a mastectomy or if a doctor deems the procedure medically necessary.

However, an insurance company does not have to cover the cost if the original reason for the implants was cosmetic.

A person should check with their insurance company to see whether it will cover the removal of a breast implant.

Breast implant removal is a procedure that removes implants from the breasts. There are several reasons why a person may need or want this procedure, including a ruptured implant, pain, or cosmetic preferences.

The procedure can be expensive, and a person will need to factor in the cost of additional care items. In most cases, insurance plans are unlikely to cover the procedure unless it is medically necessary or a person is undergoing the removal of reconstructive implants following a mastectomy.