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It’s More Complicated Than That

15 Jun

Something that isn’t really mentioned much is that eventually many breast implants may need to be replaced.  An article released in 2005 by the New York Times reports that up to 93% of silicone implants fail within the first 10 years. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/07/politics/07breast.html .Those implants need to be removed and possibly replaced as soon as possible. This is another surgical expense that you will have to cover. Usually these costs must be paid out of pocket.  In one study by the New England Journal of Medicine, the complication rate for augmentation was as high as nearly 25% http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/336/10/677.

Other things surgeons are unlikely to tell you are that sometimes the skin thins and wrinkles and the silicone shell of the implant become visible. With saline implants, if you push on your breasts, you can hear the implant sloshing around. Ever fondle a breast with a saline implant? It feels like you’re fondling a water bottle. When it comes down to it, saline breast implants are really only good for looks. The other option is silicone implants. Although there is not a conclusive group of studies, it is widely believed that leaked silicone is responsible for, or at the very least, contributes to, autoimmune conditions such as fibromyalgia.

Sex may not be the same either. You have water bottles sloshing around in your chest that feel totally different from your natural breast tissue.  Many women also report numbness or reduced feeling in their breasts and especially the nipples after augmentation. Sometimes it’s temporary. Sometimes it isn’t. This is surgery and it can cause permanent nerve damage just as with any other surgery.

Before you sign your paperwork for the surgery, someone in the doctor’s office will go over the list of possible complications. In my case the person stressed repeatedly that these complications were extremely rare. I’m sure that there are women out there who have gone through the procedure with no complications and no issues at all. I would LOVE to talk to one of these women.

The list of possible complications is as follows:

Seroma (pooling of serous fluid)
Hematoma (pooling of clotted blood; risk is 3-4%)
Symmastia
Double Bubble (also known as “double fold”, “snoopy effect”, or “snoopy breast”)
Mondor’s Cord
Bottoming Out
Deflation Photos (approximately 7%)
Capsule Contracture
Traction Rippling & Rippling Photos

Photos of these complications can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/5gz6mc

Other lesser complications include:

Asymmetry
Bleeding
Breast droop
Displacement
Implant leak
Infection (risk is less than 1%; always involves removal of implant)
Interference with mammography
Keloid (heavy scar)
Nerve Damage
Nipple numbness
Pain
Permanent numbness (risk is 15%)
Reactions to medications
Rippling
Rupture of the implant (often due to injury)
Skin irregularities
Sloshing
Slow healing
Swelling
Visible scar

The above are relatively MINOR complications, however. Seroma and hematoma can lead to necrosis because of the pressure on the small blood vessels reducing blood flow to the affected tissues.

Necrosis is the death of tissue. When necrosis occurs, the area must be debrided. This means that the dead tissue has to be clipped out and the remaining, new tissue cleaned. Debridement doesn’t hurt. That tissue is dead which mean there are no living nerve endings. To leave dead tissue is to invite infection. So even though the thought is terrifying (and believe me, it was TOTALLY terrifying when I went through it), it’s better to get it done and over with. Then the body has a clean bed of underlying tissue to grow from.

The complication percentages listed above are reported to be low. Most are under 10 percent according to the statistics I have found. This does NOT mean that surgery of any kind is completely safe. Do not believe that just because your friend had a boob job that went perfectly that you would have the same experience.

Your surgeon and his or her skill level play a big part. So does your body and how it heals. Even though I got a clean bill of health from my pre-surgical physical and blood test, I developed several complications. I had seroma and hematoma that were NOT addressed by my surgeon. I believe those contributed to the development of necrosis. I also talked to a nurse about a year after my complications. From the description of my waist to collarbone bruising, the nurse was completely convinced that something had gone wrong during the surgery that led to the development of the necrosis.

I’d like to stress again that you should be educated about your choice of surgeons. He or she MUST be board certified by a plastic surgery association. ANY doctors can call themselves a plastic surgeon but the ones who are actually educated for that specialty are board certified.

Do NOT try to find a deal. Trust me when I say that cheaper is NOT better. I learned this lesson the hard way. It cost me more than money to learn this.

If something does go wrong, you may not be able to sue. In the state of Florida a plastic surgeon is only required to carry $100000 in malpractice insurance unless they are affiliated with a hospital. By the time your lawyer proves malpractice, most of that $100K will be gone to lawyer’s fees. You will, in all likelihood have little to nothing left for any repair procedures.

Use my story as a cautionary tale. Know your body, know your family medical history, know your surgeon, and know the risks.

 

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