Sometimes breast implants can shift or become displaced over time so that they’re not in the correct position in the breast. This can happen to one or both implants and can be the result of many different factors, such as an error in the initial placement of the implants, choosing implants that are too large, gravity, and problems with the breast skin.
Types of breast implant displacement problems
Here are some examples of the ways breast implants can become displaced:
- Implants have settled too low on the chest: Sometimes the implants drop too low, slipping beneath the bottom fold of the breast. This can happen, for instance, if the surgeon created too large a pocket in the chest to hold the implant and/or larger implants are causing the breast tissue to become stretched out over time due to their weight.
- Implants have settled too far apart and away from the middle of the chest: This is called “lateral displacement” and it's another problem that can develop if the surgeon created implant pockets that are too large or if the pockets stretched out over time. When a woman who is experiencing lateral displacement lies on her back, her reconstructed breast(s) may shift too far to the sides.
- Implants have come together in the middle of the chest: In rare cases, the skin and muscle between the breasts detaches, allowing the implants to merge and creating the appearance of a “uniboob.” This is called symmastia and it can occur, for example, if too much tissue was removed too close to the breastbone during the mastectomy.
How implant displacement is repaired
If your implant has shifted a lot, your plastic surgeon can make adjustments to the capsule of scar tissue that normally forms around the implant and/or the pocket of tissue surrounding the capsule with permanent stitches so that the implant will be in a better location and won’t move around as much. This usually involves tightening or loosening some areas of the pocket and reinforcing the capsule using a piece of dermal matrix material (a skin substitute made mostly of collagen) to help keep the implant in the correct position. Your plastic surgeon will replace your existing implant, possibly with one that has a different amount of projection, a different level of firmness, or that is a different size, which can help change how it sits in the chest.