When the outer shell of a breast implant ruptures, the implant may deflate or deform and will generally require non-emergency corrective surgery. Leaking implants generally do not pose an immediate health risk, however it is important to address ruptured implants with an experienced revision breast surgeon.
Symptoms of breast implant rupture
Ruptured breast implants typically cause only mild discomfort, including nausea and headache within 48 hours of saline implant rupture and pain, burning, tingling, swelling and numbness following silicone breast implant rupture.
In addition, the following visible implant rupture symptoms may occur:
- Hardening or softening of the breasts
- Distorted breast size or shape, including saline implant deflation
- Hard knots or nodules
Silent ruptures, or symptom-less implant ruptures, may also occur with silicone breast implants, so it is important to periodically check them for ruptures.
- Click to see more before and after photos of ruptured or leaking breast implants
Breast implant rupture causes
Breast implant ruptures are unpredictable and may occur at any time, for any reason. However, there are some factors that may increase your risk for implant rupture, such as:
- Implant age - Normal aging of the implants also increases the risk of rupture
- Implant over-handling - During your initial breast augmentation, over-handling of the implants during surgery, particularly the TUBA technique, can degrade the implant and increase rupture risk
- Overfilling or underfilling - Filling implants with more or less saline solution than recommended by the manufacturer may lead to leaking
- Capsular contracture - Scar tissue contraction (capsular contracture) around the implant may increase the likelihood of rupture
- Breast trauma - Significant pressure, compression or impact to the breast may rupture an implant (e.g. closed capsulotomy or mammogram)
- Defective implants - Occasionally implants may rupture due to product defect, however this is uncommon, as breast implants are rigorously tested for durability
When saline implants rupture, the harmless saline inside the implant leaks out into the body, eventually resulting in implant deflation and significant volume loss in the breast.
Although a slow saline leak may not be immediately apparent, it eventually becomes obvious to the naked eye when saline breast implants rupture, so diagnosis is as simple as noticing implant deflation.
Silicone implant rupture
Ruptures in silicone implants are more difficult to detect, as the cohesive silicone gel that fills these implants does not leak to the extent that saline does, and thus implant deflation doesn't occur following an implant rupture.
Diagnosis of silicone implant rupture requires an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), as this test can look for small amounts of silicone that are outside the shell of the implant.
The FDA recommends that all patients obtain an MRI 3 years after the breast augmentation, and then every 2 years thereafter, to detect silent rupture at an early stage, so the implants can be removed and replaced before any long term problems occur.
Gummy bear implant rupture
Gummy bear implants are unique because they are form stable, and thus the cohesive gel inside would not leak or migrate into the body if the implants rupture.
So few cases of gummy bear implant rupture have occurred that it is difficult to say whether an MRI would detect the condition, however it is speculated that a patient may notice a difference in the look and feel of their breast due to capsule thickening in the event of a gummy bear implant rupture.
Correcting ruptured breast implants
Whether implants are saline, silicone or gummy bear, revision breast surgery is needed to correct ruptured implants.
Even if only one implant has ruptured, both are typically removed or explanted and replaced during breast revision surgery, especially if the implants are more than 10 years old. This is done in an effort to avoid experiencing a future implant rupture with your remaining intact but aged implant.
Some patients opt to have their breast implants removed and not replaced, however this typically is not recommended unless a breast lift is performed to remove excess skin that has been stretched out by the implants. A breast lift with augmentation may also be recommended if your breasts have begun sagging since your initial breast augmentation surgery.