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Reducing Capsular Contracture and Increasing Implant Longevity in Breast Augmentation

Breast augmentation remains one of the most popular cosmetic surgeries worldwide, offering patients the opportunity to enhance their body contours and boost self-confidence. However, like any surgical procedure, it comes with potential complications, one of the most common being capsular contracture. As a board-certified plastic surgeon known for his surgical technique and patient care, Dr. McClellan emphasizes the importance of understanding and mitigating this risk to ensure optimal outcomes and long-term satisfaction for his patients.

Understanding Capsular Contracture

Capsular contracture occurs when the scar tissue, or capsule, that normally forms around a breast implant tightens and compresses the implant. This can lead to several issues, including:

  1. Distorted Breast Shape: The tightening can cause the breast to appear misshapen or unnaturally firm.

  2. Pain and Discomfort: The contraction of the capsule can lead to discomfort or pain.

  3. Implant Displacement: The implant may shift from its intended position, affecting the overall aesthetic outcome.

The severity of capsular contracture is classified into four grades, known as the Baker scale:

  • Grade I: The breast is normally soft and looks natural.

  • Grade II: The breast is slightly firm but looks normal.

  • Grade III: The breast is firm and appears abnormal.

  • Grade IV: The breast is hard, painful, and looks abnormal.

Factors Contributing to Capsular Contracture

Several factors can contribute to the development of capsular contracture, including:

  1. Bacterial Contamination: Even a small amount of bacteria introduced during surgery can lead to inflammation and increased scar tissue formation.

  2. Implant Surface: Smooth implants are more likely to lead to capsular contracture compared to textured implants.

  3. Implant Placement: Implants placed above the pectoral muscle (subglandular) have a slightly higher risk compared to those placed below the muscle (submuscular). But nipple position and patient wishes may warrant above the muscle.

  4. Patient Factors: Individual patient responses to surgery, including genetic predisposition to excessive scar tissue formation, can play a role.

Reducing Capsular Contracture and Enhancing Implant Longevity

Dr. McClellan employs a multi-faceted approach to reduce the risk of capsular contracture and increase the longevity of breast implants. Here are key strategies and considerations:

1. Implant Choices

Implant Plane Placement:

  • Sub-muscular Placement: Placing implants beneath the pectoral muscle (sub-muscular) rather than above it (sub-glandular) significantly reduces the risk of capsular contracture. This approach also provides a more natural contour, especially in patients with thin breast tissue.

  • Incision Selection: Inframammary incision is the best way to place the implant according to research. There is less opportunity for bacterial contamination and malposition. These scars tend to heal very well.

  • Larger Implants and Increased Risk Tissue Stress: Larger implants place more stress on the surrounding breast tissue and skin. This increased stress can lead to a higher inflammatory response, which in turn can contribute to the formation of thicker and tighter scar tissue. Skin and Tissue Stretching: With larger implants, the skin and tissues must stretch more significantly. This excessive stretching can cause micro-tears and additional trauma to the breast tissue, increasing the risk of inflammation and scar tissue formation. Pocket Displacement: Larger implants may be more prone to displacement within the breast pocket. This movement can irritate the surrounding tissues, potentially leading to an increased inflammatory response and higher risk of capsular contracture.

2. Surgical Techniques and Choices

Minimizing Contamination:

  • No-Touch Technique: Using a "no-touch" technique, such as employing a Keller Funnel, minimizes the risk of bacterial contamination during implant insertion.

  • Antibiotic Irrigation: Washing the implant pocket with an antibiotic solution before placing the implant can reduce bacterial contamination and subsequent inflammation.

Precise Pocket Creation:

  • Meticulous Dissection: Careful and precise dissection to create the implant pocket helps avoid unnecessary trauma to surrounding tissues, reducing inflammation and scar tissue formation.

  • Pocket Size: Ensuring the pocket is appropriately sized to fit the implant snugly reduces the risk of implant displacement and capsular contracture.

3. Choosing a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon

Experience and Expertise:

  • Certification and Training: Ensuring that the surgeon is board-certified and has extensive experience in breast augmentation is crucial. Dr. McClellan's certification and reputation for patient care and surgical precision exemplify the importance of choosing a qualified professional.

  • Reputation and Reviews: Patient reviews and testimonials can provide insight into the surgeon’s track record with reducing complications and achieving long-term satisfaction.

4. Post-Operative Care


  • Breast Massage: Instructing patients on post-operative breast massage can help keep the implant pocket open and reduce the risk of capsule formation.


  • Anti-Inflammatories: Prescribing anti-inflammatory medications post-surgery can help manage inflammation and pain, reducing the risk of excessive scar tissue formation.

  • Leukotriene Inhibitors: Some surgeons prescribe leukotriene inhibitors (e.g., Singulair) to reduce the risk of capsular contracture, although this practice is still under investigation and should be tailored to individual patient needs.

Following postoperative instructions:

  • Ice: Frequent ice post-surgery can help manage inflammation and pain.

  • Rest: Too much activity can lead to hematoma, muscle tear, edema, or displacement.

Long-Term Implant Longevity

Ensuring the longevity of breast implants involves both surgical excellence and ongoing patient care. Dr. McClellan emphasizes the following aspects to maximize the lifespan of breast implants:

Regular Follow-Ups:

Scheduled Appointments:

  • Routine Check-Ups: Regular post-operative visits allow for early detection of any issues, such as capsular contracture or implant malposition, and timely intervention if necessary.

  • Annual Examinations: After the initial recovery period, annual examinations help monitor the condition of the implants and surrounding tissue.

Lifestyle Considerations:

Healthy Living:

  • Diet and Exercise: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with balanced nutrition and regular exercise supports overall well-being and reduces the risk of complications.

  • Avoid Smoking: Smoking can impair healing and increase the risk of complications, including capsular contracture. No smoking is allowed 8 weeks prior to and 8 weeks after surgery.

Implant Awareness:

  • Self-Examinations: Encouraging patients to perform regular self-examinations to feel for any changes in the implants or surrounding tissue helps with early detection of potential issues.

  • Prompt Reporting: Patients should be advised to promptly report any unusual symptoms or changes, such as sudden swelling, pain, or changes in breast shape, to their surgeon.


Capsular contracture remains a significant concern in breast augmentation, but with the right strategies, its risk can be minimized, and implant longevity can be enhanced. Dr. McClellan's approach, which combines meticulous surgical techniques, careful implant selection, comprehensive post-operative care, and patient education, exemplifies best practices in reducing this complication. By choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon with a commitment to excellence and patient care, individuals seeking breast augmentation can achieve beautiful, long-lasting results while minimizing the risk of capsular contracture.


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  2. Spear SL, Baker JL Jr. "Classification of capsular contracture after prosthetic breast reconstruction." Plast Reconstr Surg. 1995 May;95(6):1119-23.

  3. Bengtson BP, Glicksman CA, Connell BF, et al. "Cellulite reduction using the VASERShape MC1 System." Aesthetic Surg J. 2012 Mar;32(2):228-38. doi: 10.1177/1090820X12439610.

  4. Henriksen TF, Fryzek JP, Holmich LR, et al. "Surgical intervention and capsular contracture after breast reconstruction with implants." Arch Surg. 2005 Oct;140(10):956-63. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.140.10.956.


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