Exploring women’s experiences of implant loss after immediate implant-based breast reconstruction: A qualitative study

Bere Mahoney*, Elaine Walklet, Eleanor Bradley, Steven Thrush, Joanna Skillman, Lisa Whisker, Nicola Barnes, Chris Holcombe, Shelley Potter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Immediate implant-based breast reconstruction (IBBR) is the most commonly performed reconstructive procedure in the UK but almost one-in-ten women will experience implant loss and reconstructive failure following this technique. Little is known about how implant loss impacts on patients’ quality-of-life. The first phase of the LiBRA study aimed to use qualitative methods to explore women’s experiences of implant loss and develop recommendations to improve care.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of women who experienced implant loss following immediate IBBR, for malignancy or risk-reduction across six centres. Interviews explored decision-making for IBBR and experiences of implant loss and support received. Thematic analysis was used to explore the qualitative interview data. Sampling, data collection and analysis were undertaken concurrently and iteratively until data saturation was achieved.


Twenty-four patients were interviewed; 19 had surgery for malignancy and 5 for risk-reduction. The median time between implant loss and interview was 42 months (range 22-52). Ten women had undergone secondary reconstruction; two were awaiting surgery and 12 had declined further reconstruction. Three key themes were identified. These were the need for: i) accurate information about the risks and benefits of IBBR; ii) more information about ‘early-warning’ signs of post-operative problems to empower women to seek help; and, iii) better support for patients following implant-loss.


Implant loss is a devastating event for many women but better information and support preoperatively and more holistic patient-centred care for patients who develop complications may significantly improve the experience and outcome of care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-390
Number of pages11
JournalBJS Open
Issue number3
Early online date17 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • breast cancer
  • implant based reconstruction
  • Qualitative study


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