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Breast Implant Illness: What You Need To Know About Explant Surgery

Updated: Jan 10



Instagram: @KristinBroadwell

When I realized the pain and discomfort were due to my breast implants, it was a tough but a necessary decision - explant surgery had become essential for me. Living with Breast Implant Illness (BII) completely changed my life, leading down an unexpected path towards healing.


From experience, I can tell you that understanding the CAPSULE is a critical part of breast augmentation or implant replacement. This capsule creates an important protective barrier around your implants to safeguard against toxins and chemicals - something I wish I'd been aware of before my breast surgery! So make sure you get informed about this crucial aspect before making any decisions on getting or replacing breast implants.


For many women, the decision to get implants is life-changing. But what happens if you decide down the road that it's time for a change? I recently underwent an implant replacement and uncovered some shocking truths about this procedure – come join me as I share my experience of my breast explant procedure and what happens to the breast capsule.


I had no clue of the possible peril that could arise from implants, nor did I anticipate how my body would react after. Breast implants were never meant to be lifelong devices and if this post can help someone else out there, then it's worth every second - let me tell you why; hindsight is always 20/20 and perhaps if somebody told me about what happens when you remove or replace implants in advance, I'd would have never had the toxic devices or had them removed unless I had an en bloc procedure.


Why did I get breast implants?

As a preteen, I found myself on the swim team surrounded by peers whose bodies had developed faster than average—most notably in terms of breast size. Having breasts smaller and more unevenly formed than most other girls gave me an acute sense of inferiority that led to my pursuit for confidence with the help of plastic surgery.


My initial surgery

In 2008, I decided to take the plunge and get them - a decision that turned out to be life-altering. For many years, they made me feel more confident in my own skin, but also made me appreciate why so many other women have chosen this procedure for themselves. Although there were no major issues with mine after my initial surgery, I knew at once that it had been well worth doing! I loved them!


Breast Implants
Before I Starting Experiencing Complications

What is the difference between implant and explant?

Breast implant surgery is performed to put in new implants or replace breast implants, while breast explants are to remove the implants.


Replacing my implants

Thirteen years after my initial breast implant surgery, I returned last October 2021 for a timely replacement with the same plastic surgeon I had to do my original breast surgery. A commitment to staying up-to-date on best practices ensured that everything went according to protocol....so I thought!


After replacing my implants, I experienced a great deal of chest pain that I never experienced in my breasts prior to my second surgery . Though I had requested smaller implants to correct asymmetry, my plastic surgeon informed me that the size originally sought was unavailable and instead substituted a larger implant - much too large for my frame or chest wall. Later on however, it came to light that virtually any desired implant can be procured; evidently he simply stocked what worked best for his supply, rather than addressing what functioned optimally in terms of what was best for me!


I experienced serious complications with my breast implant replacement - capsular contracture & more...

My larger implants had become a source of daily pain, with medication proving insufficient to alleviate the discomfort caused by the hardening scar tissue around them. Unfortunately, I began to experience soreness and was faced with a capsular contracture that could no longer be ignored.


I soon noticed my body had taken a sudden downturn, causing pain, experiencing migraine headaches, blurry vision, fatigue and even joint pain - an unfamiliar feeling that prompted me to reach out to healthcare professionals. Fortunately, I didn't have implant leaks. But, little did I realize at the time: these health issues were connected to my recent augmentation procedure.


Breast Implant Illness

While researching for a resolution to my intense breast implant-induced pain, I stumbled across Facebook groups full of thousands of other women who were in similar predicaments. It was incredibly daunting discovering just how many people had experienced the same issue as me.


I encountered an alarming medical phenomenon known as Breast Implant Illness (BII), which affects all brands of implants, from saline to silicone. The symptoms are staggering - fatigue, brain fog, autoimmune diseases and joint pain being only a few in the long list that includes rashes, hair loss and psychological issues such as anxiety and depression. I was taken aback by how little this had been addressed even though so many women have shared similar experiences!


After weeks of research and consultations with explant surgeons, I was ready to explore the unknowns around Breast Implant Illness (BII). Not only did my healthcare provider not have answers for why my health problems were occurring, but after they were removed it seemed that all my symptoms had disappeared. With this knowledge in hand came guidance on how to minimize risk during surgery - through an en-bloc procedure whereby they removed both implant and capsule at once. It felt as though a weight was lifted off my shoulders; I knew there could now be an end in sight and eventually healing.


The capsule (scar tissue) and what really happens when you remove breast implants

Your body has a clever system of protection against foreign materials in implants; your body creates a layer of fibrous scar tissue around the implant to keep out any hazardous toxins or metals that can leak into your bloodstream if your implant ruptures. Unfortunately, when replacing old implants with new ones many people miss an important step - removing the capsule surrounding them which often contains leaked pollutants and foreign material from the previous breast implant in what is known as 'gel bleed.'


Plastic surgeons cut open the capsule when replacing and removing implants

After getting a breast implant replacement, many plastic surgeons simply cut open the existing capsule and swap out one implant for another. The old capsule that is now cut open containing toxins and chemicals had been left in my body. From this process the toxins and chemical that the capsule was protecting me from spilled into my into body containing dangerous toxins that can cause sickness in both short-term and long-term periods; unfortunately I was among those who suffered immediate health complications. Some healthcare professionals will claim that breast implant illness is extremely rare but seeing how fast I was affected, I beg to differ.


To promote a full recovery from breast implant illness, women must seek the skillful hand of board certified plastic surgeons and undergo an en bloc procedure to securely remove them.


What is breast implant removal surgery and the en bloc procedure?

A typical breast implant removal involves a plastic surgeon precisely opening the capsule to delicately extract just the implant, leaving behind any adhered scar tissue within your body.


En bloc removal of implants is a surgical process designed to ensure the safety of your body by preventing unwanted toxins, such as saline or silicone material, from entering - all while keeping the removal intact. It's an important method that ensures comprehensive implant evacuation with minimal risk. By removing both the implant and capsule tissue in one piece, it prevents any possible contamination of body by saline or silicone material - keeping you healthy and safe!


Specialized plastic surgery expertise is essential for a successful en bloc capsulectomy, due to its intricate and demanding nature.


Breast explant procedure focuses on removing implants and scar tissue formed around them from the chest wall.


My explant surgery, and no breast lift

After much reflection, I decided to move forward with explant surgery under the expert care of Dr. Shaher Khan in Novi, MI. He was highly experienced in performing this procedure and valued my preference for BII-related techniques without a breast lift or drains required - just an explant so that I could heal as safely and easily as possible with what my natural breast tissue remained after augmentation years before. An en-bloc involves cutting the capsule with the implant inside off of the rib cage.


Looking back on those "before" photos made me appreciate how happy I am now about these results; no longer questioning why it felt necessary all along!


I was determined to get mine removed, so much that I put the cost of over ten thousand dollars on a credit card. Although research suggests there is a potential link between breast implants and cancer diagnosis, unfortunately it remains classified as cosmetic surgery - meaning insurance companies will not cover this expensive procedure yet. Despite its lengthy process lasting three hours in total under Dr. Khan’s experienced hands, taking care of myself had never felt more important or necessary for me personally.' I had smooth implants and not textured implants and was excited to be be getting that painful scar tissue removed. An incision was made along the inframammary fold so scars are less visible under the breasts.


To ensure a successful recovery after surgery, you'll receive thorough instructions on cleaning incision sites and change dressings. In addition, it's essential not to bathe or submerge yourself in any body of water for the two weeks following treatment; showering is allowed but should be done with caution!


My breast explant surgery was not as painful as I thought it would be. I made sure to take care of myself, use t-rex arms and not lift heavy objects up to the six week mark. You can expect discomfort and pain in your body during the first week of your breast explant treatment.

Image 1: With Dr. Khan

Image 2: My capsule after my breast explant surgery


Recovery from my explant surgery

My recovery period for my breast explant surgery was about six weeks and wasn't bad at all. It was an outpatient procedure with twilight anesthesia versus general anesthesia. One of my surgeon's instructions was to only use T-rex arms with my elbows by my side and only use my forearm to lift light objects.


The night after my surgery I went to reach for my prescription bottle and I could read it without blurry vision. I literally couldn't believe my eyes. My migraines - I had one from the prescription medications two days after the explant but none since then. As far as having pain from working out, I had to wait at least six weeks to begin exercising. I just started but so far so good. I have more energy and don't feel lethargic as I had before and I still feel like I am healing from my breast explant surgery. The pain that I was feeling in my chest had gone away and was nothing like it was from the large implants I had in my body.


My toxic bags weighed almost two pounds so I didn't experience significant weight loss as other women in the Facebook groups did. I, unfortunately, had more significant weight (about eight pounds) because I craved sugar really badly after explant surgery and I couldn't work out except for minimal walking. However, people thought I had actually lost weight because the fake boobs must have made my body look bigger.


Do breasts bounce back after implant removal?

Breast tissue after implants do bounce back after explant. It depends on a woman's breast tissue but naturally with every breast procedure you will lose some breast tissue. I was prescribed pain medication for the first couple of days to minimize discomfort as well as receive in depth instruction for the best recovery plan. Breast explant surgery is a major surgery.


Conclusion

Healthcare professionals might downplay the occurrence of BII, but it could have devastating effects. Had I been warned about risks associated with my implant replacement surgery, maybe I wouldn't be facing costly medical bills and health problems. Contrary to popular belief, BII - Breast Implant Illness - is a very real condition that can cause serious health issues when left untreated.


After analyzing the FDA's scientific data, I made an informed decision to have my breast implants removed. This gave me peace of mind that a closed capsule removal offered more safety than opening it up and replacing them. With this empowering step taken, I now feel great about myself - free from pain and fulfilled in body confidence!

If you are considering breast augmentation or scheduling a breast implant removal or replacement, do your research and do what you feel is best for your body.



Articles & Websites

Facebook groups to learn more about breast implant illness

Items to help with recovery with breast explant surgery

Appropriate compression garments for implant removal

Follow-up care that helped me with my breast implant removal recovery

Medically Related Products for Breast Explant Surgeries

Fun with my initial recovery

When you have surgery to get your implants removed, you have to use what they call "Trex arms." Why not have fun with it!!!!!

For my video, I used licensed royalty-free footage from a program called PROMO. Click here to try it for yourself.


Affiliate Disclosure: I'm trying to help pay off my breast implant removal surgery so I joined the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This service does not cost you anything.

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