Breast augmentation is one of the most popular cosmetic surgical procedures in the US and has been for years. But like any type of surgery, it is not without complications. One of them is risk of capsular contracture. Technically, capsular contracture is not dangerous to your health (unless it’s caused by implant rupture), but it can cause obvious, unattractive changes to breast appearance and in advanced stages can be painful.
Thankfully, there are ways to treat capsular contracture.
What’s the Problem?
Capsular contraction is not your fault, nor is it your surgeon’s fault. It is simply your body trying to do its job. The body considers anything that doesn’t naturally belong there to be a potential threat. So when you get breast implants, the body responds to these foreign objects by surrounding them with a thin layer of scar tissue called a capsule. That way the “threat” is literally contained.
However, in as many as 19% of women the capsule can thicken and harden so that it starts to shrink. If it contracts enough, unwanted aesthetic symptoms will start to appear. The process can start shortly after breast augmentation surgery. In most women, if it is going to occur, it will happen within the first two years.
Degree of capsular contracture is defined by the Baker scale:
- Grade I – breasts are normal in size, shape and softness
- Grade II – breasts look normal but are becoming firmer
- Grade III – breasts are obviously firm and appear abnormal
- Grade IV – breasts are hard, appear abnormal and are painful if touched
There are surgical interventions such as capsulotomy, in which the capsule is loosened to allow it to relax, alleviating symptoms. However, the success rate for corrective measures is poor, as the problem often recurs. Surgical removal of the implants (capsulectomy) removes the problem. Some women then choose to get replacement implants, but if you are prone to capsular contraction the same thing may happen again.
In early stages, doctors often recommend that patients take vitamin E or milk thistle to help soften the capsule. Manual breast massage is thought to help by keeping breast tissue pliable, but there are no major clinical studies to back this up. (Also, putting pressure on the breasts following an augmentation procedure can delay healing and damage results.)
Aspen ultrasound therapy is an innovative option that is proven to help reverse capsular contracture. This is an in-office, non-invasive and painless treatment that uses precisely-controlled ultrasound waves to stimulate natural production of collagen. Since collagen is a key building block in connective tissue, this helps boost softness and elasticity of breast tissue surrounding the implant capsule. The treatment works gradually, so it takes multiple sessions to achieve desired results.
At Eterna Cosmetic Surgery, we recommend a series of 10 sessions, one week apart, as part of a multi-prong professionally supervised treatment regimen.
The Best Treatment is Prevention
The only way to guarantee you won’t experience capsular contracture is to choose breast augmentation with fat transfer instead of implants. However, if you do opt for implants, there are several steps you can take to minimize your risk and even prevent the problem from developing.
Not surprisingly, these treatment options are the same as the treatments we use to alleviate symptoms once capsular contracture starts to develop or worsen. We recommend starting Aspen therapy as described above shortly after breast augmentation surgery, to give your body the best chance to heal well without forming excessive scar tissue, thereby preventing capsular contracture from occurring.
If you are experiencing symptoms of capsular contracture or are considering breast implant surgery, a personal consultation with Dr. Elizabeth Hernandez can fill you in on how Aspen can help you achieve your aesthetic goals successfully and comfortably.