Ruptured & Leaking Breast Implants

Leaking breast implants

What To Do With Leaking or Ruptured Breast Implants?

Breast implant ruptures, or deflation, is among the top 5 reasons women may require a secondary surgery (breast revision surgery) after breast augmentation.

But lets put an old myth to bed about silicone—if your implant ruptures, its ‘deadly substances’ could enter your bloodstream and cause serious harm.

 …if your implant ruptures, its ‘deadly substances’ could enter your bloodstream and cause serious harm.

Let me clarify: most modern silicone breast implant ruptures, typically do not deflate or leak in the way the old implants did. The filler gel may leak from the implant over time and can migrate through the implant pocket and become intra-capsular (i.e., throughout the chest tissue) and then extra-capsular (i.e., via the lymphatic system), which can then migrate throughout the body.

But there’s no scientific evidence linking ruptured silicone implants with any serious diseases, including breast cancer or any auto-immune disease or connective tissue disorders.

According to worldwide studies conducted in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, they showed no scientific evidence that ruptured silicone breast implants cause serious, long-term health problems such as breast cancer or connective tissue diseases. [1]

How To Tell If Your Breast Implants Are Ruptured

A Saline Ruptured Implant is very straightforward because in the majority of cases, the patients will present with a complete loss of fullness to the breast.

When rupture occurs in a saline-filled breast implant, it deflates, and the harmless saltwater (saline) solution leaks from the shell into the surrounding tissues.

Usually a mammogram, ultrasound, CT or MRI’s are not required as clinical examination is sufficient.

Silicone Breast Implant Ruptures

However it is important to note, that when a silicone breast implant is placed in your body, fibrous tissue (capsule) forms around the implant.

When intra-capsular ruptures occur, the shell of the implant ruptures but the fibrous capsule remains intact. If the implant ruptures, it usually goes unnoticed because any ‘free silicone’ tends to remain trapped in the surrounding tissue—this is known as a ‘silent rupture’.

As silicone does not freely ‘extravasate,’ [2] it makes it difficult to detect. Hence, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is the most effective way to detect silent rupture of a silicone gel-filled implants.

In extra-capsular rupture the silicone gel may slowly leak from the scar tissue capsule around the implant, and migrate away from the breast and enter the lymphatic system. This normally leads to a change in breast implant contour and can normally be detected during clinical examination and mammography—extra-capsular rupture implies intra-capsular as well.

Among implant ruptures, 77—89% are intra-capsular and 11—23% are extra-capsular.

Symptoms

Most women have no signs or symptoms when a silicone breast implant ruptures. However, some women may experience:

  • Pain, burning, tingling, swelling, numbness or redness in the affected breast
  • Hard knots or lumps surrounding the implant or in the armpit
  • Change in breast size or distorted breast shape
  •  Softening or hardening of the breast.

If the decreased breast size and uneven appearance of the breasts doesn’t motivate you to see your surgeon, the pain and tenderness, should surely make you act.

Treatment

Most experts agree that it is important to remove a ruptured implant (i.e., explanted) shortly after diagnosis has been confirmed.

The longer the silicone is allowed to remain in the body, the more time it has to migrate to other parts of your body, like the lymph glands

Breast implant removal is a relatively straightforward. Typically the implant is approached through the same surgical incisions as your original breast augmentation.

If you choose not to replace your implants after they have been removed, the breast tissue can be re-shaped and contoured. In this case a breast lift (mastopexy) may be the procedure of choice to lift and reshape the loose breast tissue which exists after the removal of the silicone implants.

However, if you decide to replace your implants with new ones, there are many choices to consider.

 

Notes/Citations:
[1] “Testing by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has not identified a specific serious safety concern with PIP breast implants. There is also no scientific evidence that there are any chemicals in PIP implants that are likely to cause harm to a woman or her unborn or breast-fed children” (The Department of Health, 2013).
[2] let or force out (a fluid, especially blood, in this case silicone) from the vessel that contains it into the surrounding area.