Even when a plastic surgeon is highly skilled at performing surgical procedures, there’s a possibility that complications will occur. This is partially because every person is different, which means there are variations in connective tissue and the way a person heals. Subsequently, sometimes scar tissue is developed that’s thicker than what might be considered the norm.
It’s normal for scar tissue, referred to as a “capsule,” to form after a cosmetic or medical implant because it’s part of the healing process. This happens because the body is trying to isolate a foreign object that’s detected, which is a natural protection mechanism. For instance, the body naturally attempts to create a barrier between breast implants because they are considered foreign. That barrier is a capsule, which is actually a good thing since it can help to ensure breast implants stay in place. The problem arises when capsules become hard. Another issue is when they start to contract around the breast implant. While it might cause pain, it’s more likely to cause problems with the visual appearance of the implant.
There is a grading system from 1 through 4 that are used to indicate the severity of capsular contracture. Grade 1 is when the capsular does not interfere with the overall appearance of the breasts. Specifically, with a Grade 1 capsular contracture, the breasts are still soft and have a natural appearance. Grade 2 is when the breasts feel a bit firm when touched, but the appearance and the shape is normal. In Grade 3, both the appearance and the feeling of the breasts are affected. By the time a capsular contracture reaches Grade 4, there’s a good chance that the breast implants have become painful, as well as misshapen and hard to the touch.
As previously mentioned, every patient is different, and what might cause a capsular contracture for one person, might not cause it to occur in another. In other words, it can be difficult to pinpoint the reason why it happens. Nevertheless, capsular contracture is not caused by breast implants being toxic, nor does it happen because breast implants are inherently dangerous. Saline used in implants is saltwater, which can be absorbed into the skin without any problems. It’s also worth noting that implants made of silicone gel are not the reason for this issue.
Capsular contracture is not something that only happens with breast implant surgery. It actually occurs with different types of surgical procedures. The reason why it gets so much attention when it happens after breast implants are because it’s so much more noticeable when it reaches Grade 3 or Grade 4 since the appearance has changed. As it relates to how capsular contracture impacts a person’s health, it usually isn’t an issue unless the patient has gel implants that have ruptured.
Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, Dr. Lorraine Golosow is a trusted plastic surgeon and member of the American Medical Association and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. She was also the Chief of Plastic Surgery at Lee Memorial Hospital. Dr. Golosow can answer any questions you have about breast implants.