What Causes a Capsular Contraction?

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Capsular contraction is caused by the healing process of your body trying to minimise the amount of scar tissue located around your breast implant.  As a natural reaction your body will try to make any scar tissue as small as possible, which will close the void created for your implant to sit in.  This will place a lot of pressure on your breast implant, and might cause it to be squeezed into an unnatural and painful position.  It is still quite unknown as to why capsular contraction occurs, and unfortunately surgeons and doctors still have no solid answers.  They believe it might be due to:

  • Contamination.  Bacteria or germs could cause your body to react to the implant, causing the contraction of the cavity.
  • Infection.  It has been noticed that following infection of the breast, capsular contraction is more likely to occur.
  • Presence of hematoma, this is likely to cause inflammation, which could result in capsular contraction. 

Capsular contraction doesn’t affect everyone, and it is not known why it occurs for some women and not for others.  There are some steps that you can take to try to lessen the risk of it occurring for you, however it is unclear as to how well these work.

How to minimise the risk of Capsular Contraction

Although you cannot predict if you will suffer from capsular contraction, there are measures that you can take to try to minimise the chances of it forming.  These include:

  • Having your implant positioned under the pectoral muscle.  Some surgeons have noticed that there are more instances of capsular contraction in breast augmentations that have been placed over the muscle, known as sub-glandular.  This hasn’t been completely proven however.
  • Daily massage of your breasts after surgery.
  • Taking prednisone for two weeks after your breast implant surgery.
  • Compression exercises, involving squeezing the implant to keep it flexible and loose. 
  • Using a textured implant can help to deter capsular contraction, as it is thought to prevent such a solid wall of tissue from building up around it.
  • Taking vitamin E tablets might also help, although should not be taken two weeks before and two weeks following your implant surgery.  Vitamin E is thought to soften scar tissue, so will help to prevent your capsule from hardening.

Your surgeon is likely to inform you of these measures before you have your initial breast augmentation surgery, and will be able to give you any further information that you require.  

Those most at risk of Capsular Contraction

Some people are at a heightened risk of capsular contraction because of certain lifestyle choices, or pre-existing conditions that might affect their breast augmentation surgery.  People who are at risk of forming capsular contraction include those who:

  • Have any autoimmune problems
  • Smoke, this restricts the amount of oxygen within the body and slows down the healing process.
  • Have been subject to radiation therapies
  • Have experienced some form of trauma or accident to the breast
  • Suffer from a hematoma or seroma
  • Have a bacterial infection

If you are concerned about the risk of capsular contraction your surgeon will be able to talk you through how best to avoid this risk and what steps to take to reduce the likelihood of it occurring to you.

Capsular Contraction Risks

Very low grades of capsular contraction are unlikely to need any corrective surgery.  However as the problem increases in severity you will find it gets more uncomfortable and a solution will have to be sought.  In very extreme cases of capsular contraction the pressure placed on the implant can cause it to rupture, thus requiring immediate surgery and implant replacement.  This only happens very rarely, however, and it is likely that you will have had a corrective procedure performed before this will occur.

The main risk of capsular contraction is the amount of pain that it can give you, and the distortion of your implant that is likely to leave your breasts looking uneven and misshapen.  Many people are deeply unhappy with the appearance of their implant during an episode of capsular contraction, and it is usually for this reason that they seek treatment.

Treating capsular contraction holds risks of its own, as the procedures used can be potentially problematic.  Surgery contains risk of infection, bleeding and allergies to anaesthetics, and a closed capsulotomy has the risk of rupturing your implant and causing a large amount of pain.  These are things that you ought to have considered before having the initial breast augmentation, however, and your surgeon ought to make you aware during your consultation sessions.

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Guide to Capsular Contraction