What are the Symptoms of Capsular Contracture from an Implant?

The below question is answered by Charleston breast surgeon Dr. James Craigie of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction.

What are the symptoms of capsular contracture from an implant?

Capsular contracture is commonly described using the four-grade Baker Scale.

  • Grade I — the breast is normally soft and appears natural in size and shape
  • Grade II — the breast is a little firm, but appears normal.
  • Grade III — the breast is firm and appears abnormal
  • Grade IV — the breast is hard, painful to the touch, and appears abnormal

The symptoms can be varying from mild to severe.  Mild capsular contracture may only be detectable by your surgeon.  If the process worsens and becomes severe it may lead to changes in the breast that a person easily could tell themselves.  In other words, the shape may change, the breast may become different in shape, and clothes may begin to fit differently.  The breast may become hard and the skin and tissue over the implant can change in appearance and color.  The most severe problem related to capsular contracture would be pain and discomfort that may eventually limit the range of motion and movement of the shoulder and upper body.  Some patients relate symptoms that they describe as an “iron bra” across the chest when the scar is so thick and tight.  The chest feels like it is wrapped in something as wrapped in an “iron bra” all the way around.  Sometimes the process can worsen and actually press in, move the muscles away from the breast area, and change the shape of the ribs.  This would be the most severe form of capsular contracture and at that point we would recommend removing the implant and replacing the reconstruction with a muscle-sparing procedure.

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