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What happens when a breast implant ruptures?

Breast implants Lake Norman

Breast augmentation can have a significant impact on a woman’s self-esteem and confidence. This procedure is generally safe and has a very high patient satisfaction rate (98%). However, any surgical procedure does come with risks, and it’s important to educated yourself of the risks prior to having surgery. For example, implants may eventually rupture (meaning that they develop a hole or tear in the shell). Although it’s uncommon, particularly with the newer generations of highly cohesive breast implants, implant rupture is a possibility.

How do you know whether a breast implant has ruptured? Do you need surgery if this happens? The answer depends on many factors, including what type of implants you have.

Silicone implant rupture

Silicone implant ruptures can be classified as “intracapsular,” meaning that the silicone has leaked out of the implant itself but is still contained within the capsule of scar tissue around the implant, or “extracapsular,” meaning that the silicone has migrated outside of the capsule.

A ruptured implant may lead to symptoms, including breast pain or soreness, lumps, changes in breast shape, or hardening around the implant. If an implant rupture is causing symptoms, then it’s generally recommended to remove the ruptured implant. Many women choose to have it replaced with a new implant, but this is certainly not required; there is also the option of simply having your implants removed altogether. (In this case, a breast lift is often recommended. Without the lift, removing the implants will lead to a very undesirable “deflated” look to the breasts due to stretching of the skin from the implant.)

It’s usually best to replace both implants at once, even if only one of them has ruptured. Because both implants were placed at the same time, the second implant may be likely to rupture in the future as well. Replacing both implants at the same time means that you only have to go through one surgery.

If the rupture is intracapsular, then the implant replacement procedure is relatively simple. The old implant is removed, and the surgeon cleans up the silicone from within the capsule. In some cases, the capsule itself may also need to be removed (if it has developed capsular contracture, which is a tightening of the capsule). The new implant can then be placed, and the incisions closed. The healing process tends to be easier than it was with the initial implant placement, as the stretching of the body’s tissues has already occurred.

If the rupture is extracapsular, then the procedure is essentially the same, but the removal is a bit more complex. The surgeon will attempt to clean up all of the silicone from the surrounding area tissue, although this can be difficult. More cohesive silicone (such as “gummy bear” implants) will tend not to migrate as far as less cohesive (more liquid) silicone, which means that the cleanup tends to be easier.

Many silicone implant ruptures are “silent,” meaning that there are no symptoms at all. A silent rupture may be found on an imaging procedure, such as an MRI. If this is the case, then one option is simply to monitor the situation closely, without proceeding directly to surgery. Another option is to go ahead and replace the implant. Whether or not to do a surgical procedure to replace the ruptured implant is a decision that the woman and her doctor will need to make together, based on the clinical situation and her tolerance of risk.

Saline implant rupture

Saline implants do have a silicone shell, but they’re filled with sterile salt water rather than with silicone. Because of this, if a saline implant ruptures, it will rather quickly deflate as the saline leaks out into the body. On the one hand, the saline will be absorbed by the body and does not pose any risk of causing problems. This is what leads some women to choose saline implants over silicone, because they know that if the implant ruptures, there will not be a danger of complications.

On the other hand, this means that a ruptured saline implant will need to be addressed as soon as possible after it happens. The breast will take on a “deflated” appearance and will be very obviously different from the other breast. Once a woman notices that her saline implant has ruptured, then she should visit her plastic surgeon as soon as possible for a consultation. The options are to replace the ruptured implant (and potentially the other one as well, since it may be approaching the point of rupture as well), or to remove the implants.

Breast implants Lake Norman

If you have experienced a breast implant rupture, or if you have potential symptoms or other concerns, then we encourage you to contact a plastic surgeon as soon as possible. Some women choose to go back to the same surgeon who originally placed their implants, while others go to a different surgeon.

Dr. Miles

If you’re around the Charlotte or Lake Norman area and you have concerns about breast implant rupture, we invite you to come in for a consultation with Dr. Erik Miles. He will be happy to discuss your concerns with you. If you and he together decide that implant replacement is the best option for you, you’ll get the benefit of his excellent surgical skills, so you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that a double-boarded plastic surgeon is taking care of you. To schedule your appointment, please contact our office.

Dr. Erik J. Miles
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