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Polyethylene implant

Author: Vanessa Ngan, Staff Writer, 2002.


What is a polyethylene implant?

A polyethylene implant is a porous synthetic polymer that is biologically inert and non-biodegradable in the body. High density polyethylene (HDPE) solid implants have been used by plastic surgeons since 1985 in facial augmentation, either for reconstructive or cosmetic purposes. The porosity of high density polyethylene allows for soft tissue and vascular ingrowth, which helps in keeping the implant in place.  

Where can a polyethylene implant be used?

Polyethylene implant is used in chin, cheek and jaw line reconstruction. The material can be carved or contoured to fit a particular 3-D space. It is also widely used for facial repair following accidents and for correction of congenital defects.

Am I suitable for a polyethylene implant?

Most people tolerate the polyethylene implant very well. It is a non-toxic polymer that the body does not recognise, so rejection is very rare.

How is a polyethylene implant inserted?

The procedure is carried out in a doctor's rooms. The length of time will depend on what corrections are being made but usually takes about an hour.

Procedure for polyethylene implantation

  1. Implantation site is prepared with an antiseptic solution.
  2. Local anaesthetic is used to numb the site.
  3. Small incision is made at the implantation site.
  4. Tissue from the area is gently lifted to create a small tunnel or pocket for the implant.
  5. Implant is inserted and trimmed if necessary to fit the requirements of the correction.
  6. Implant is secured in place by suturing the incision(s).
  7. Sutures removed after 5-7 days.

How long does a polyethylene implant last?

Polyethylene implants are considered permanent. They can be removed, although with more difficulty than implants such as silicone, which do not allow for tissue integration to occur.

Are there any side effects from polyethylene implant?

Polyethylene implants are usually well tolerated. You can expect some discomfort directly after the implantation. There may be some swelling, aching, and numbness but these usually resolve after a week or so.

The following complication may rarely occur:

  • Infection of the implant site
  • Extrusion (part of the implant comes through the skin)
  • Induration (hardening of the area operated on)
  • Seroma (dense pocket of fluid below the skin)
  • Inadequate healing
  • Overcorrection or undercorrection.



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