Heidi Montag’s announcement that she is “desperate” to have her 34G implants removed sent up a wise chuckle among Hollywood plastic surgeons. “Caveat emptor,” said Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, who’s been practicing in Los Angeles for 35 years and performed more than 4,000 breast surgeries, including implant removals. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Ellenbogen, who has not treated Montag but has treated “many, many people with known names, and some whose names you’ve forgotten” over the years, said Montag’s remorse, which she's announced only a week after her original plastic sugeon's death, might be coming too late.
Montag’s implants are about 800 cubic centimeters in medical terms—by comparison, Dolly Parton’s are supposedly 1200cc, the largest legally available size. After a person gets large implants, “the breast tissue is stretched out, and removal of the tissue could leave the tissue very saggy and very loose—a flat ‘granny’ breast,” said Ellenbogen.
Gallery: The Great Deflation
Dr. Gabriel Chiu, another Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, told The Daily Beast, “Your breasts will not necessarily rebound back to the way they were before surgery, due to possible loss of elasticity.” A recovery from the surgery would take about “four to six weeks,” said Chiu, “although they will continue to ‘spring back’ [get perkier] for a few months.”
Montag told the magazine that she hopes to downsize to a DD or a D, rather than fully remove her implants immediately. In addition to the risks of loosening and stretching, “the spacing of the cleavage after significant reduction in breast volume will likely be wider and less deep,” said Chiu.
If Montag does fulfill her Life & Style wish and reduce the size of her breast implants at some point, she could be in for some serious trouble. Ellenbogen, who said he does not put in big implants and called augmentations of that size “ridiculous and deforming,” listed a host of reasons why large implants (those over a few hundred cc’s) are health hazards: Implants that stretch the skin too thin can erode through the skin; can cause shoulder and back bones to weaken or even separate; curtail blood supply to the chest area; and destroy breast sensation. “When you get beyond a certain size,” said Ellenbogen, “there’s a 100 percent complication rate.”
Chiu also sticks to “natural” looking breast augmentations. “Generally speaking, the most commonly requested volumes are between 400 and 475cc. In our office, 350cc to 400cc are the most requested,” he said.
Despite doctors who stick to realistic cup sizes, Ellenbogen said he believes that breast-implant removal “is happening more often in Beverly Hills. A lot of women are having their implants taken out.” But it’s not that women are realizing that a gigantic fake bosom can be hazardous—some are just tired of their implants, including lots of older women who felt “hot” when they were younger and no longer do.
“Usually a patient just doesn’t want them anymore,” Chiu said. “Some patients have their breasts grow after pregnancy, weight gain, or from further development of their breasts. After years, I’ve also had patients tell me that they were feeling heavy, or that they didn’t like the attention anymore.”
The extra weight may begin to feel more physically oppressive and make a woman look heavier, too. A 500cc saline implant weighs about a pound (silicone is somewhat heavier), and while that may not sound like much weight, “on a scaffold of tissue, it’s hard for your body to support,” said Ellenbogen. Montag’s implants could weigh as much as 2.5 pounds each and are the size of “California grapefruits,” Ellenbogen said. “Not Texas ones.” (Fact: Pomelos, as California grapefruits are known, are the largest citrus fruit and can grow to the size of a basketball—so maybe “the size of grapefruits” is a misnomer.)
Most women do not undergo complete removal, either; they opt for a smaller size because the breasts are able to rebound to pre-surgery shape, size, or elasticity. Breast tissue is different from any other tissue in the body, explained Ellenbogen: “It’s made of loose fibers so it can grow and shrink during pregnancy,” but it’s not made to sustain enormous fluctuations in size, like huge implants.
For anyone considering a pair of 34Gs or anything close to thousands of cc’s, Ellenbogen asked: “Why? Why would you do something so ugly?”
Claire Howorth is the Arts editor at the Daily Beast.