Capsular Contracture: A Guide for Breast Implant Recipients

People undergo breast implant surgery for different reasons, from replacing a breast lost to cancer to correcting an undesirable breast shape or size. These procedures usually provide the intended results, but in some cases, scar tissue makes the breast painful, firm to the touch, or deformed, an issue called capsular contracture.

If your reconstructed or enhanced breast causes you trouble, you should learn about capsular contracture’s causes, common symptoms, grades of severity, and treatment or prevention strategies. Check out this basic guide to the condition so you can know what to expect from it and what you can do about it.

Why Capsular Contracture Occurs

Scar tissue typically forms in any part of the body that receives a traumatic injury or invasive surgical procedure. In the case of a breast implant, the body recognizes the foreign body within it and builds a capsule of scar tissue around the implant to keep it separate from the surrounding tissues. The amount of scarring varies from person to person.

If your body creates thicker, denser scar tissue than the norm, this scar tissue may cause trouble as it contracts around the breast implant. This capsular contracture occurs especially often in people who previously underwent radiation treatment for breast cancer. A hematoma, implant rupture, or bacterial infiltration can also cause it.

What Capsular Contracture Looks and Feels Like

The symptoms and effects of capsular contracture can vary widely. Doctors describe the severity of a capsular contracture by assigning it one of four grades. In the least severe grade, grade one, many people experience no discomfort or unusual breast problems at all following implant surgery.

If you have a grade two capsular contracture, you might notice minor asymmetry or other small cosmetic imperfections in the affected breast, although the breast still feels soft and causes no pain. A grade three capsular contracture will display clear abnormalities and firmness, while grade four typically causes breast pain as well.

How Doctors Treat Capsular Contracture

Although surgery remains the most surefire means of relieving capsular contracture symptoms, modern medicine also offers some non-surgical treatment options that might reduce or eliminate your need for surgery. Your plastic surgeon may prescribe antibiotics, Vitamin E, leukotriene inhibitors, or breast massage to soften scar tissue.

Surgery for capsular contracture often involves removing and replacing the breast implant. Before adding the new implant, your surgeon will sterilize the surrounding tissues with an antibiotic solution to reduce the risk of recurrence. The implant itself will also receive as little handling by the surgeon as possible to reduce infection risk.

Less severe cases of capsular contracture may not require a full implant replacement. Your plastic surgeon can perform a less invasive procedure called a capsulotomy. In this procedure, the surgeon simply removes and enlarges some of the capsule, not all of it, freeing the constriction on the implant.

If you run a high risk for recurrence due to previous radiation therapy or a tendency to form especially thick scar tissue, your plastic surgeon may recommend autologous tissue reconstruction instead of another implant. Muscle, blood vessels, and fat from your own abdomen will go into the creation of your new breast.

How to Reduce Your Capsular Contracture Risk

If you want to minimize your risk of capsular contracture, your surgeon may decide to use a soft tissue replacement called acellular dermal matrix (ADM) during a capsulectomy or first-time implant procedure. This graft material encourages your own tissues to grow around the breast implant more quickly and normally.

You may also benefit from other steps that lower your risk for capsular contracture. For instance, an experienced plastic surgeon will know how to choose the right size of implant (preferably a textured gel implant), keep the implant itself free from contamination, and place the implant under the chest muscle where possible.

If the tissues around your breast implant have developed a possible capsular contracture, get the help you need at Jaibaji Plastic Surgery. We can offer the right treatment techniques to relieve your symptoms and reduce your risk for future capsular contractures. Contact our office today.