Signs of Encapsulated Breast Implants

Last updated on September 5, 2017

Every woman desires to have a bust that complements the natural contour of her body. From push-up bras to enhancement cream, women have always looked for ways to improve the size and shape of their breasts. And among these methods, breast implants have been the most successful at enabling women to shape their body to their desires. These medical devices are implanted into the chest, either under the breast tissues or the chest muscles in a procedure known as breast augmentation.

 

Having breast implants is a personal decision and its benefits should be weighed against its potential risks and complications. One of the most common yet serious problems that should be considered before undergoing the procedure is capsular contracture.

Signs of encapsulated breast implants after breast augmentation.

Capsular Contracture and Its Signs

Capsular contracture is the result of internal scars that form a constricting capsule around breast implants. The formation of scar tissue is a natural reaction to the placement of any foreign objects into the body. However, its development becomes problematic when the scar tissues begin to contract and limit the movement of the implants.

The slow progression of capsular contracture makes its signs and symptoms difficult to detect. It can happen any time after having the procedure, but usually, it is observable within the first six to nine months following breast implant surgery. Common signs of having encapsulated breast implants include:

  • High-riding breasts, which is caused by an unusually higher position of the implant in the chest
  • Breasts appear smaller, ball-shaped, and somehow deformed
  • Unusual hardening and tightness of the implants that can be painful at times

 

Diagnosis

A thorough physical examination is necessary for the diagnosis of capsular contracture. Its symptoms are categorized according to grades in a system called the Baker Classification of Capsular Contracture. This system has four (4) grades:

Grade I: There is no detectable capsule around the implants. The breasts feel soft and look natural. There is no need for any treatment at this point.

Grade II: The breasts still look normal but there is slight firmness upon palpation. Doing breast massages and taking prescribed medications can help improve the condition.

Grade III: The breasts have moderate hardness and distortion. Surgery is necessary to have the condition corrected. Otherwise, this grade can progress to the next stage.

Grade IV: This is the most severe condition due to the pain and tenderness resulting from the contracture. The breasts are abnormally deformed and surgery is necessary to correct the contracture.

 

Causes and Prevention

Encapsulated breast implants have always been a risk in breast augmentation surgeries. The actual cause of capsular contracture remains unknown, although it is speculated to be due to excessive bleeding and biofilm formation on the surface of the implant caused by a low-grade bacterium.

No Touch technique

To lower the possibility of having capsular contracture from bacterial sources, administration of perioperative antibiotics and antibiotic irrigation can be done prior, during, and after the surgery. A No Touch technique may also contribute in decreasing the chance of contaminating the implants, incision sites, and tissues. Avoiding direct trauma to the ribs and surrounding tissues also helps in preventing excessive bleeding and lessens the formation of scar tissue capsule around the implant.

Sub-muscular placement

Sub-muscular placement of the implants can help reduce the risk of capsular contracture. This placement allows implants to move within its pockets through the action of the pectoral muscles that mimics breast massages. The space resulting from the movements can prevent the scar tissue capsule from tightening around the implants.

Postoperative instructions

Lastly, following postoperative instructions such as massaging the breasts and refraining from lifting heavy weights is also necessary for minimizing breast implant encapsulation and other complications.

 

Having a zero rate of breast implant encapsulation is close to impossible. But its occurrence is greatly lessened with the preventive measures that board-certified plastic surgeons expertly apply prior to surgery and upon developing the complication.

The breasts are the most defining feature of the female form and it is important that they retain their function and aesthetic appeal through breast augmentation. With the guidance of a board-certified plastic surgeon, women are assured that the procedure is safe, satisfying, and life-changing.

Cara Downey, MD

Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Cara Downey provides cosmetic surgery procedures to Houston and the surrounding areas.

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