What Causes Capsular Contracture?

There’s no arguing that breast augmentation surgery is one of the most popular and effective procedures in the United States.

For women who have undergone a mastectomy, or those who simply want to restore a more youthful appearance to their breasts, the procedure is a godsend.

What’s more, with the many advances in medical and surgical technology, complications from breast augmentation surgery are rare.

Even so, they do occur. And the most common complication is that of capsular contracture.

What Is Capsular Contracture?

Any time the body is subject to the insertion of a foreign body, it naturally forms a capsule of scar tissue around the implanted object. This is a normal part of the healing process. Whenever the body doesn’t immediately recognize an object, it forms a barrier to isolate the object and protect itself.

In the case of breast implants, fibrous scar tissue forms around the implant. This may sound problematic, but it’s actually a positive thing. The capsule assists in keeping the implant in place so as to avoid any slippage.

For a small handful of patients though, it CAN become problematic. If the body goes into overdrive in its protective measures, the scar tissue may tighten around the implant and then squeeze it. This is known as capsular contracture and it can not only distort the shape of the breast, but it can cause it to rise higher on the chest and even create chronic pain.

Why Does It Happen?

Generally speaking, the reasons that these few patients develop capsular contracture while others do not are not well known. One factor is the way an individual body responds to “invasion.”

Since each body is different and the composition of connective tissue varies from patient to patient, there is no universal response. This is the same reason that one person might develop thick scar tissue after sustaining a deep cut, while another may only experience subtle scarring that eventually fades.

In other words, each person has a unique healing process. Some immune systems respond more poorly to foreign objects than others. Furthermore, if a patient’s immune system is already compromised – such as it might be after receiving radiation therapy – he or she is more likely to experience capsular contracture.

Additional factors such as a ruptured implant, a hematoma, bacteria, or a genetic predisposition for scarring can also increase one’s risk.

What Are the Signs?

If one or both breasts look or feel different after surgery, it could be capsular contracture. Although it’s possible there will be no symptoms at all. At first, at least. This is known as a Grade 1 capsular contracture.

At the Grade 2 level, the breasts have either minor or no noticeable change in shape, but may feel somewhat firm to the touch.  At this point, breast massage can alleviate and begin to reverse any further progress.

If the breasts are firm to the touch and appear overly round or have misshapen nipples, this is a Grade 3 contracture. The breasts also tend to look hard – although the patient may experience little to no pain. A surgeon may recommend ultrasound therapy with targeted massage to help break up the excess scar tissue and release the capsule.

With a Grade 4 capsular contracture, the breasts are hard and very obviously misshapen. Patients experience tenderness, soreness, and pain when their breasts are touched. This highest level of capsular contracture typically requires breast implant revision surgery.

But once again, capsular contracture at any level is not a common occurrence. And a Grade 4 is even more unusual.

Is Breast Augmentation Right for You?

Of course, complications during plastic surgery are now very rare, both because of advances in surgical techniques and stringent sanitizing. In addition, plastic surgeons can more easily predict which patients are likely to experience capsular contracture and recommend alternatives.

So if you’re considering breast augmentation, contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll take every single factor into consideration before advising this surgery.

That way, you can assure the best possible results.