Capsular contracture occurs when the scar tissue that forms around a healing breast-implant incision attaches itself to the implant, causing the woman to experience pain, firmness in the breast, and deformed implants. Often, women must undergo a second surgery to counterbalance the effects of the contracture. Women who have silicone implants are at a greater risk for suffering from capsular contracture than women who choose saline implants.

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Physicians measure a patient’s capsular contracture on the Baker scale.

  • Grade I: The breast has maintained its shape, size, and is soft to the touch.
  • Grade II: The breast has begun to harden, but it looks normal to the patient and physician.
  • Grade III: The hardness of the breast has started to change not only the consistency of the breast but also the shape of the implant.
  • Grade IV: The hardness of the breast causes the patient severe pain. It is misshapen.

What Causes Capsular Contracture?

All incisions cause scarring and the development of scar tissue, and all women who have breast implants inserted develop a capsular around their breast implant. Capsular contracture, however, is the development of an irregular capsular around the implants.

According to a study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, capsular contracture may be caused by bacteria. The researchers conducting this study found that when doctors used antibacterial solutions during the implant procedure, fewer women suffered from irregular development of scar tissue.

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How Can Patients Avoid Capsular Contracture?

Since the 1980s, cosmetic surgeons have been researching different ways to help women avoid developing capsular contracture. Because capsular contracture occurs when too much scar tissue develops around the implant, all women who have implants inserted are at risk, including those who have undergone reconstructive surgeries after mastectomies or to repair physical irregularities.

Researchers have discovered that those patients who had textured implants, as opposed to smooth implants, were less likely to develop capsular contracture. Additionally, women whose implants have been placed underneath the pectoral muscle, rather than above the muscle, have also been found to be less likely to suffer from capsular contracture.

How Is Capsular Contracture Treated?

For many years, women who suffered from severe capsular contracture were forced to have their breast implants removed and replaced. If the contracture was not severe but still caused the patient discomfort, the implant was left in the breast, but the tissue surrounding it was removed through surgery.

Capsular contracture may also be treated non-invasively with ultrasounds, Zafirlukast (a medication that reduces inflammation), and Diapulse therapy and external massage.

Because capsular contracture is one of the most frequent complications women suffer from when they have breast augmentation procedures, it is important to speak with your surgeon about the different ways that you can avoid the complication. Knowing the surgical procedures and preventative techniques as well as the possible treatments for the disorder will make you a better informed patient.