Breast augmentation with implants is a popular plastic surgery procedure in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of patients undergo the procedure every year to make their breasts bigger and shapelier. The procedure involves the use of artificial devices called breast implants to deliver the desired improvements. The implants are made of a silicone shell that is filled with silicone gel or saline solution.
Just like other plastic surgery interventions, the breast implant surgery involves risks and complications. Two of the problems that may happen after the procedure is calcification and palpability. Even though these complications are rare when a board-certified plastic surgeon performs the procedure, they cannot be completely ruled out.
Calcification after breast implant surgery
Calcification is a complication that happens when calcium salt deposits collect in an underlying tissue inside the breasts. Calcium deposits may accumulate in the soft tissue, which can trigger other associated problems like capsular contraction. Women have a natural tendency to experience calcification as they age, but the condition is more likely to happen after the breast implant procedure.
Many studies undertaken over the last several years have discovered an association between calcification and breast implants. Luckily, when the complication happens due to breast implants, it is not cancerous. When calcification occurs after the breast implant procedure, the primary characteristics of the condition include delicately organized, irregularly shaped, and calcified agglomerates. The calcification also tends to affect the scar tissue, which can trigger capsular contracture.
While the condition is not benign, some studies state that it should be intensely studied to diagnose any signs of cancer. Many surgeons ask the patients to get medical tests and scans for indications of calcification before breast implant surgery. The causes of calcification include infection and impairment or injury of the tissues during the operation.
If you have had breast implants for many years now, you might be at higher risk of calcification. The complication starts in the scar that usually forms on the breasts after the procedure. Many patients think calcification is breast cancer, but the fact is that it isn’t cancer. Many studies have been undertaken to arrive at this conclusion.
One research suggested that patients who have been living with breast implants for more than fifteen years are more at risk of calcification. Calcification may happen whether you have saline or silicone implants. Calcification is also more likely after breast implant rupture or leak. When calcification occurs, it does not affect your physical health or causes pain. However, the condition will affect the shape of your breasts.
After calcification, your breasts make look poorly shaped and abnormal. To treat the condition, the patient will be required to undergo another surgery during which the implants will be taken out along with the calcification. You can opt to get new implants in the future.
What causes calcification?
The first cause of calcification is an injured or impaired tissue. During the breast implant surgery, your muscles will be torn, injured, and damaged. If the damage is extensive, your risk of calcification is higher. Moreover, the post-operative swelling and surgical trauma are also considered to be causes of calcification.
What are the symptoms of calcification?
The symptoms of calcification after the breast implant procedure are not always concrete. The signs of calcification are subtle and tiny. To diagnose calcification, the patients are required to get a mammogram. Other medical tests and scans may be required if the mammogram indicates signs of calcification.
Usually, calcification does not cause health problems; however, your doctor will need to make sure everything is right and the condition is not affecting your health. If the mammogram and other tests indicate that there are no health risks, the patient will not be asked for more tests and scans. However, in some cases, more tests will be required to make sure the condition is not affecting your health.
If the test reports state that the calcification is non-cancerous, the behavior of calcification will be noted for a few months. If the condition does not change shape, it means there is no health risk. However, if it changes shape, you would be required to get a biopsy to confirm whether it is cancer or something else.
The good news is that so far, no patient with calcification has presented signs of breast cancer after the breast implant surgery. But to reduce the risks and take all precautionary measures, it is essential to check for calcification before and after the breast implant surgery.
Palpability of silicone implants
Palpability is also a complication associated with the breast implant surgery. Palpability happens when you can feel and touch the implant within your breasts. While this complication is rare, it may still happen, especially when the implants are placed above the pectoral muscle.
When the implants are placed over the breast muscle, they fail to get enough tissue coverage. It leads to palpability, meaning the patient can feel and touch the implant. Also, the implant’s edges may be visible through the skin. To avoid this condition, many plastic surgeons prefer to place the breast implants under the pectoral muscle.
If you are petite or thin and have smaller breasts that lack sufficient tissue, you may experience palpability after the breast implant surgery. When the implants are seen through the skin or are felt or touched, it can be aesthetically unappealing. During the pre-operative consultation, be sure to ask your plastic surgeon how likely you are to suffer from palpability and what can be done to prevent the condition.
If the doctor believes that you may experience palpability after the breast implant surgery, he will share this information with you so that you can make a better decision. Another primary cause of palpability is the use of overly large implants. If the implant is more significant than your existing breast dimension, it will fail to get enough tissue coverage and will lead to palpability.
Palpability prevention and treatment
To decrease the risk of palpability after the procedure, the doctor can use specific surgical techniques and divide the lateral areas of the implant pocket. The surgeon can run the cutting tool deeply into the region so that the breast implant can gain sufficient tissue coverage. It will go a long way toward preventing palpability.
If you are already suffering from palpability after the breast implant surgery, you can fix the problem by undergoing a corrective procedure. The corrective surgery would involve opening the original incisions, through which the surgeon will access the breast implants. The surgeon will then take out the implant and create a pocket under the breast muscle. The implant will be placed in the new pocket under the pectoral muscle.
If the cause of palpability is the use of overly large implants, it would be necessary to remove and replace the implants with suitably sized implants. After replacing the implants, the surgeon will suture and close the incisions.
To prevent breast implant palpability, be sure to choose only an experienced and board-certified plastic surgeon. Also, make sure that the implant is suitable for your breast dimensions and that the implants are placed under the pectoral muscle, especially if you are petite or thin. It is also critical for the patients to follow the surgeon’s instructions.
Calcification is a complication that rarely happens after breast implant surgery. The condition occurs when the calcium salts collect in the breast’s underlying tissues and the scar tissue. It results from infection and injury of the tissues. On the other hand, palpability can also happen after breast implant surgery. Palpability means the implant is visible through the skin and is also felt and can be touched. The treatment options for these complications and tips for prevention have been discussed above.
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