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Definition | Reasons for Procedure | Possible Complications | What to Expect | Call Your Doctor


Breast implant removal is a surgery to remove breast implants.

Breast Implant

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Reasons for Procedure

Breast implants may be removed because of complications, such as:

  • Ruptured or deflated implant
  • Visible wrinkling or rippling of the implant
  • Hardening of the implant
  • Reactions to the implant
  • Uneven appearance of breasts
  • Persistent breast pain following insertion of implants

Women may also need to have implants removed for breast cancer treatment.

The implants may also be removed for cosmetic reasons.

Possible Complications

After the implants are removed, the skin will look loose. Another surgery is usually needed to lift the breasts and adjust the tissue and skin. Another option is to have the old implants replaced with new ones.

Your doctor will review other potential problems, like:

  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia (such as, light-headedness, low blood pressure, wheezing)
  • Soreness in throat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Scarring
  • Change in the sensation and appearance of the breast
  • Emotional distress due to the change in body image
  • The need to have additional surgery (for example, to remove the scar tissue capsule surrounding the implant)

Smoking may increase your risk of complications.

Talk to your doctor about these risks before the procedure.

What to Expect

Before the procedure, your doctor will:

  • Do a physical exam
  • Talk to you about:
    • How your breasts may look after surgery and what your expectations are
    • Whether you want new implants and, if so, the type and size

You may also have blood tests and imaging tests

You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:

  • Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as, ibuprofen, naproxen)
  • Blood-thinning drugs, such as warfarin
  • Anti-platelet drugs, such as clopidogrel

Leading up to your procedure:

  • The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • If instructed, shower the morning of the procedure.
  • Arrange for a ride to and from the hospital and for help at home.

This surgery may be done with:

  • General anesthesia (more common)—blocks pain and keeps you asleep during the surgery
  • Local anesthesia—numbs the breasts, but you remain awake

A small incision will be made along the crease beneath the breast. The implant will be removed through the incisions. Extra care will be taken if the implant has ruptured. Thick, hard scar tissue may have developed around the implant area. It will need to be removed during surgery. This will require a larger incision.

Another option includes making an incision in the area around the nipple. The implant will be deflated then removed.

Dissolvable sutures will be used to close up the incisions.

It takes about one hour, but it may take longer if there are complications.

Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. As you recover, you will have some pain, especially if you have had scar tissue removed. Your doctor will give you pain medicine.

This procedure may be done in the hospital or surgery center. It may be possible to leave the same day as the procedure. However, you may be asked to stay overnight.

The hospital staff will monitor you. Your breasts may be wrapped in a compression bandage. Dressings will be placed on the incision sites.

When you return home, take these steps:

  • Use a compression bandage or wear a special bra.
  • Change the dressings every day.
  • To decrease swelling and pain, place ice packs on your breasts. Wrap ice in a towel. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
  • Take pain medicine as indicated by your doctor.
  • Ask your doctor when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge at the incision site
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
  • Rash or other new symptoms

If you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Society of Plastic Surgeons



Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons


Women's Health Matters



Breast implants: potential local complications and reoperations. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/BreastImplants/ucm064332.htm. Updated September 1, 2010. Accessed July 18, 2012.

Breast implant removal. Breast Implants Guide.org website. Available at: http://www.breastimplantsguide.org/breast-implant-removal.html#.UAahc2G4_Sg. Accessed July 18, 2012.

Breast implant removal. Implant Info Net website. Available at: http://www.breastimplantinfo.net/explant.html. Accessed July 18, 2012.

Breast implant removal and re-implantation. Group Health website. Available at: http://www.ghc.org/all-sites/clinical/criteria/pdf/brimplant.pdf;jsessionid=ZX4FR2BTJKFUBJCISQ3SHPQ. Accessed July 18, 2012.

Breast implant replacement or removal. The Hospital Group website. Available at: http://www.thehospitalgroup.org/cosmetic-surgery/breast-home/implant-replacement. Accessed July 18, 2012.

Breast implant surgery. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/BreastImplants/ucm064176.htm. Updated June 22, 2011. Accessed July 18, 2012.

What you need to know about breast implants. National Research Center for Women & Families website. Available at: http://www.center4research.org/2010/04/what-you-need-to-know-about-breast-implants/. Accessed July 18, 2012.

Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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