Saline and silicone gel breast implants are designed to last for many years. However, they will not last forever. The silicone shell that holds the saline and silicone gel solution will eventually wear out, resulting in small leaks, complete deflation, or otherwise ruptured implants. The manufacturers of breast implants say that, on average, their products are expected to last for at least 10 years. Still, there are cases in which implants last for longer or shorter periods of time. Once the implant shell becomes damaged, the implant requires immediate replacement. Here, we look at the causes of implant leaks, and the signs and symptoms of saline versus silicone gel implant ruptures.
Causes of Implant Leaks
Everyday movement can eventually result in normal wear and tear of the implant shell. However, there are factors that can cause quicker damage of the implant shell. These include:
- Capsular contracture: The fibrous tissue that forms around the implant contracts and squeezes the implant, potentially causing a rupture.
- Over or under filling of the implant
- Physical trauma
- Surgical damage
Saline Breast Implant Rupture
Saline implants consist of a silicone shell filled with a saline solution that is similar to the consistency of water.
Typical Signs and Symptoms
If a saline breast implant ruptures it is likely to deflate relatively quickly, which will change the shape and shrink the volume of the breast. Patients notice that the implant has a leak almost immediately due to the change in breast size. Most people do not experience pain or illness with the deflation of saline implants unless there is an accompanying infection.
When a saline implant leaks or ruptures, the saline is simply absorbed by the body, which poses little or no health risks. However, if the patient has been exposed to a pathogen such as a fungus or bacteria, there could be complications from infection. It is recommended that if the saline does leak, the implant’s silicone shell be removed. If the patient wishes to have the implant replaced, it can often be done at the same time the old shell is removed.
To restore the breast to its original volume and shape, the implant will need to be replaced. Patients with only one deflated implant typicallly choose to have both implants exchanged to maintain symmetry.
Silicone Breast Implant Rupture
Silicone implants consist of a silicone gel filled with a silicone gel solution. The silicone gel is a much thicker consistency that water.
Signs and Symptoms
Silicone breast implants can leak but do not deflate quickly the way saline implants do because the silicone gel is designed to stay in place when a leak occurs. This makes is much more difficult to detect a rupture. Some patients experience symptoms of a silicone gel implant leak, including:
- Pain and swelling near the breasts and armpits
- Changes in the shape, size or texture of the breast
However, silent ruptures, in which patients do not experience any symptoms, are possible.
Preventing Complications with an MRI Scan
Because of the relative frequency of silent ruptures, the FDA recommends women with silicone breast implants have an MRI scan three years after the implants have been placed and once every two years after that to check for ruptures.
As of now, silicone implants are not thought to cause breast or reproductive cancers or connective tissue problems. Still, when a leak occurs, patients should have the damaged implant removed and replaced as soon as possible.
Treatment for the rupture of silicone gel breast implants involves breast implant revision to remove and replace the implant.
All women who suspect they have had rupture should schedule an appointment with their cosmetic surgeon as soon as possible. If they have a fever, swelling, pain, or suspect infection, they may need to seek emergency services.
Contact the Dallas practice of Dr. Mark Deuber to schedule a breast augmentation consultation.