Open Capsulotomy: An Effective but Overlooked Treatment for Capsular Contracture after Breast Augmentation

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The prevailing theory for capsular contracture after breast augmentation is a subclinical capsular infection. A capsulectomy, site change, and implant replacement are recommended. An open capsulotomy leaves the capsule in the patient. Theoretically, such a procedure would be ineffective because it does not remove the infected tissue. Recurrences occurred frequently in women treated in the 1970s when leaky silicone gel implants were in use. Open capsulotomy has not been studied in women implanted with third-generation devices.


Seventy-five consecutive women with Baker III/IV capsular contractures after breast augmentation treated with open capsulotomies between 1996 and 2016 were retrospectively evaluated. The original implants were usually saline-filled (72.2%). Replacements were all smooth and round, and 92.6% were also saline-filled.


Seventeen women (22.7%) developed a recurrent capsular contracture. Two patients (2.7%) experienced a second recurrence. Patients with ruptured silicone gel implants (n = 13) had a significantly greater risk of recurrence (P = 0.01). There was no significant difference in recurrence rates comparing patients whose intact implants were reinserted (12.5%) with women whose intact implants were replaced (18.2%). Povidone–iodine irrigation did not affect the recurrence rate. Capsular contracture was corrected with 1 procedure in 77.3% of patients and 2 procedures in 97.3% of patients.


Open capsulotomy is a safe and effective treatment that avoids the additional morbidity and cost of a capsulectomy. The findings challenge the infected biofilm theory of capsular contracture. Open capsulotomy deserves reconsideration by plastic surgeons.

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