In some cases, no matter how experienced or skilled the plastic surgeon, post-op complications can arise after a breast augmentation. Although issues such as capsular contracture are only seen in a small percentage of patients, up to one in six women will develop the thick scar tissue around their breast implants, causing pain, swelling, and deformity. This unexpected complication can pose a serious health problem, requiring surgical intervention.
After any medical device is placed in the body, a capsule of scar tissue will form around it. This is a completely normal part of the healing process. In breast augmentation, this thin capsule of scar tissue plays an important role, keeping the breast implant in place, preventing it from slippage.
However, some women find themselves faced with capsular contracture after their breast augmentation. Their body does not only create the expected capsule around the implant, this scar tissue will continue to expand, becoming thick and hard. As the scar tissue continues to grow, it can begin to constrict the implant, causing discomfort and a misshapen breast. There are several levels (known as grades) of capsular contracture, ranging from asymptomatic to extremely painful:
- Grade 1: Asymptomatic; the early formation of scar tissue around the implant does not interfere with the size, shape, or texture of the breasts.
- Grade 2: Presents with minor symptoms. The breasts will look normal in shape but can feel firm to the touch.
- Grade 3: Obvious cosmetic symptoms; breasts are firm to the touch and will begin to look abnormal (hard, overly round, misshapen nipples). Little to no pain.
- Grade 4: Breasts are misshapen, painful, warm, and tender to the touch.
In 75% of these cases, capsular contracture occurs during the initial healing process, normally within the first two years of placement. However, capsular contracture can arise any time, even years after the initial breast augmentation procedure.
Researchers are continuously trying to determine the causes of capsular contracture. While clinicians have narrowed down a variety of triggers, often the root of the problem remains unknown. It is widely agreed, however, that the breast implants themselves are not the problem, as they are not toxic or dangerous.
Potential Causes of Capsular Contracture:
- Genetics (especially in women with a history of autoimmune disease or hypertrophic scarring)
- Biofilm, or bacterial contamination of the breast cavity during surgery (This is not necessarily from an unhygienic working environment; bacteria such as Staphylococcus may already be present on the skin or in the body.)
- A post-op hematoma (collection of clotted blood) or seroma (pocket of fluid)
- Implant rupture (a common cause of ‘late-onset’ capsular contracture)
- Idiopathic (no known origin)
While it is impossible to predict post-op complications, an experienced, board certified plastic surgeon will greatly reduce any risks. Let Vitenas Cosmetic Surgery’s Dr. Paul Vitenas sit down with you to candidly discuss what can be expected from your breast augmentation recovery and the risk for complications. Call Vitenas Cosmetic Surgery at (281) 407-7428 or fill out our Contact Us form to schedule your free breast augmentation consultation.