What Is Breast Implant Rippling? By Hadi Rassael on February 05, 2014

While many of our Washington, DC, patients have improved their curves and confidence through breast augmentation, it’s not uncommon for minor complications to develop over time. Cases of capsular contracture, implant rupture, and rippling are all possible, many of which require revision surgery. With the right surgeon, however, these risks can be minimized, and any needed revision surgery can be equally or more effective than the original procedure.

Although relatively harmless, implant rippling can produce some undesirable aesthetic effects around the breasts. To help our patients understand this cosmetic risk and how it can be avoided or treated, take the following information into consideration. 

What Is Implant Rippling?

As its name suggests, rippling is the appearance of small folds in the skin, most often near the bottom or sides of a breast. This can be caused by a number of factors, but in all cases, rippling is a reflection of how the implant is resting within the breast. Some cases may be extremely subtle, resulting in only a small, single curve in the skin. Other cases, however, can cause a woman’s breasts to look unnatural, as if they are being stretched. Rippling in itself is not a cause for medical concern, but it can give patients a good reason to revisit the size, type, and placement of their implants. 

What Factors Lead to Rippling?

Generally, rippling is caused by an implant that is not situated optimally within the breast. The individual factors that increase the risk are as follows:

  • Saline implants:  Because saline implants are filled with liquid, as opposed to a gel, they are more prone to ripple at the shell. However, both saline and silicone are capable of rippling, and there are additional factors for consideration when choosing an implant type.
  • Underfilled implants: Implants that are not filled to capacity may leave room for the shell to fold. Likewise, any unfilled space below the surface of a breast may result in irregularities along the skin.
  • Subglandular placement: Implants that are placed in the subglandular position, above the pectoral muscles, are more likely to ripple.
  • Textured implants: Because textured silicone implants have more friction against the breast, they have a greater tendency to “stick” to the skin, pulling at it unevenly.
  • Smaller breasts: Smaller breasts have less fatty tissue, which helps separate the implants from the surface. Naturally small breasts therefore have a greater tendency to reflect the shape of the implant, especially with relatively large implants.

Treating Implant Rippling

If you experience rippling after breast augmentation, revision surgery is a good way to address the problem. By examining your implants and their effects on your breasts, the cosmetic surgeon will be able to determine what changes can be made to reduce rippling.

In most cases, this will require replacing the implants. Your surgeon may suggest switching the implants’ size or volume, for instance, or switching to silicone implants. Likewise, a change in implant profile can affect how evenly the breasts are filled out. Higher profiles produce greater volume toward the front of breasts, whereas lower profiles fill out the sides; either can be an improvement, depending on where rippling is occurring. It may also be beneficial to situate implants subpectorally, below the muscle.

For women whose rippling is caused by a lack of tissue between the implant and the skin, an acellular dermal matrix (ADM) can help thicken tissues within the breast. An ADM can inserted in the area of rippling, adding synthetic tissue to the area and promoting future cell growth.

Reduce Implant Rippling

Rippling can often be solved with a single revision procedure. Whether you suffer from rippling or another implant complication, a consultation with Dr. Rassael can help you determine the problem and appropriate treatment for it. Contact us for more information and to schedule an appointment.

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Dr. Hadi Rassael

Millennium Medical

Our cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Hadi Rassael, offers the communities of Washington, D.C., Chevy Chase, MD, and surrounding areas a relaxing boutique spa experience. He offers a number of surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic treatment options including:

To schedule a consultation at our cosmetic surgery office, contact us online or call (301) 652-9005.

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