Ruptured Breast Implants: What to do if it happens to you

tire-on-implantBreast implants are not designed to fail. In fact their durability is quite impressive, as the picture depicts.  They must be able to withstand years of everyday life and the occasional mammogram.  Yet they can fail. A recent study of Mentor’s breast implants placed the rupture rate for primary augmentation at 1.1%.

The leading theories for implant rupture include….

  1. Aging of the implant elastomer shell
  2. Excessive handling or stressing the implant during surgery
  3. Excessive stress on the implant due to trauma or intense physical activity
  4. Over filling or under filling of the implants.

The underlying result of all these theories is damage to the silicone elastomer shell resulting in microscopic fractures or areas of weakness leading to failure.  So the question is, do you really know when the implant will fail?  Unfortunately it might be within 5 years of placement or never.

So what happens when a breast implant fails?

If a saline breast implant fails it’s usually pretty obvious.  If the implant develops a catastrophic failure then the implant will fail like a tire blow out.  And it’s inevitable that this will occur when you’re getting ready to go out for a dinner party or the like.  Occasionally the implant will develop a small leak that is only obvious after it has been leaking for several days and the volume decreases enough to appreciate.  In either case it’s important to make an appointment with your plastic surgeon as soon as possible to avoid having to wear extra padding in the bra.

If a silicone breast implant ruptures you’ll never know it.  The reason is that the capsule that develops around the breast implant will contain the silicone gel.  In the older style implants some of the silicone oils could migrate through this capsule.  However, silicone is inert and this oil did not result in any disease or disorder (contrary to popular claims made by the media).  Today the cohesive gel implants that we use have silicone that does not migrate and thus are even safer than the previous implants.  And if you have any concerns, the “gummy bear” implant should ease your mind.

If the saline breast implants rupture, then the breast implant repair process is simple.   The old implants are removed and new implants of equal size are inserted.  The surgery should be performed within a few weeks of rupture to prevent contracture of the pocket.  If a breast lift or other procedure is necessary, that can be discussed with your surgeon.  If a silicone breast implant ruptures it’s a sticky, gooey mess.  The capsule and implant should be removed together if possible, but that is often impossible and removal of the old silicone can become tedious.  Once all of the silicone gel is removed the new implants – silicone or saline –  can be put in place.

While it may be stressful, don’t worry when your implant ruptures.  There’s time to correct the situation and return your breasts to their previous state.  Call Dr. Hess at 703.752.6608 and he’ll help you regain the appearance you desire.

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