All breast implants will break. Some even break during the first few months, but the older your implant is, the more likely it is to break. However, it is not always obvious when an implant is broken. Here is some useful information.
When a saline breast implant breaks
When saline (salt water) breast implants break, it will probably leak very quickly. When this happens, the implant ‘deflates,’ much like a balloon that has lost the air inside. Your breast will change in size or shape. It’s less common for saline to leak slowly, although it can happen. When the saline leaks, the body absorbs it. It’s usually harmless, unless there is fungus or bacteria inside the implant, which can cause a serious infection. You should go to a doctor right away to see if you need antibiotics.
How do I know if my saline breast implant has broken?
Saline implant ruptures are usually obvious. You should be able to see the difference in the size or shape of your breast. You won’t need an MRI or sonogram, and be sure not to get a mammography because the pressure can cause the implant to break.
When a silicone breast implant breaks
When a silicone gel breast implant breaks, the contents usually leak very slowly. A ruptured silicone gel implant may not be obvious for many years. Sometimes the rupture is discovered only when the implant is removed.
When a silicone implant breaks, one of two things can happen. If you are lucky, the leaking silicone will stay inside the capsule, which is the thick layer of scar tissue that naturally grows around the implant. When this happens, the silicone stays where it is.
However, the silicone can leak outside of the scar tissue capsule. When this happens, silicone can migrate to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes under the arm and major organs such as the lungs where, it is impossible to remove. The longer a woman waits to have a ruptured silicone gel implant removed, the more time the silicone has to leak inside her body.
How do I find out if my silicone implant has ruptured?
If your silicone gel implant ruptures, you might notice a change in the size or shape of your breast. Or you might feel pain or tenderness, swelling, numbness, burning or tingling. It is also possible to have a ‘silent rupture,’ where you don’t have any symptoms at all and you don’t realize that your implant has broken.
Since most women don’t notice when a silicone gel implant breaks, it is important to have an MRI to check for leakage. A mammogram is not accurate and the squeezing could make the contents of the implant leak outside the scar capsule.
Can broken implants make me sick?
According to the FDA’s research, women with leaking silicone implants are more likely to report fibromyalgia (which causes body pain) or several other diseases. There is no research on the health risks of broken saline implants.
What do I do if my implant breaks?
Most experts agree that it is important to remove a ruptured implant as soon as possible, especially if it contains silicone gel. Removal of implants is called explantation.
Usually a ruptured saline implant is harmless, unless the saline contains bacteria, mold, or fungus, which can happen inside a woman’s body. If your implant has broken, and you feel sick, have a temperature, and/or a rash, you should see a doctor immediately. You could have an infection and antibiotics might be all you need to get well.
However, if you have ruptured silicone gel implants, they should be removed as soon as possible. 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 lungs or lymph nodes, where it can’t be removed. Unfortunately, nobody knows for sure what will happen as a result of a lot of leaking silicone in the body.
Everybody is different. Some women do not respond strongly to silicone. Others become very, very ill.
If your implant is not broken, most doctors will not want to remove them. However, women who get very ill as a result of breast implants often fnd that their health improves after removal. A study of removed implants that were not replaced by Noreen Aziz and her colleagues found that 97% of women with pain and other rheumatology symptoms felt better after their implants were removed and not replaced. Many symptoms lessened or disappeared over the next few months. In contrast, 96% of the women who did not have their implants removed became even more ill.
It can be easy or difficult to remove breast implants, but it is almost always more complicated to remove a silicone gel implant than it was to put it in. This is especially likely if the implant has ruptured, because it’s important that silicone gel from a broken implant does not spill or remain in the body.
The surgeon who performed your original surgery is not always the best choice for removing the implants. Explantation results can be excellent or disastrous. Some cosmetic surgeons are very experienced at putting implants in, but not at taking them out.
However, there are some plastic surgeons who are very experienced at removal and are skilled at getting the best possible cosmetic result. The surgeon you choose should be experienced with explantation, board certified, and should be willing to show you pictures of what the patients looked like after their implants were removed, or better still, offer to have former patients talk to you. Find out if they were happy with their doctor and with their results.
Make sure that when your implants are removed, the scar tissue capsule is also removed, because it might contain bacteria or chemicals from the implants.
Most experts believe that removing the implants ‘en bloc’ is very important. This means that the entire implant and the entire scar tissue capsule surrounding it are all removed together. Removing implants en bloc makes it easier to remove any silicone that leaked from a broken gel implant, and also helps remove silicone or other chemicals that may have bled from the silicone outer envelope. You should ask your doctor if he or she has experience doing an en bloc removal.
Removing implants en bloc is especially important if you have been sick since receiving your implants. Some experts believe that symptoms such as joint pains, chronic flu-like symptoms, memory loss, confusion, or a burning sensation could be a result of silicone that has leaked from your implant, and perhaps outside the scar tissue capsule. If this is the case, leaving the scar tissue capsules, or part of them, and/or silicone in your body probably isn’t going to let you recover as well as you might. It is also possible that while the silicone did not make you sick before, silicone that is left behind in your body could make you sick later, because your body will react this foreign material.
What happens if I remove my implants and don’t replace them?
Some surgeons discourage patients from removing their implants without replacing them, because they believe implants are safe and because they’re concerned that the patient will be very unhappy with her appearance after the implant is removed. The breast tissue stretches from the implant, and if the surgeon isn’t skilled in explantation without replacement, the breast is unlikely to be as attractive as it was before the implant surgery.
If the surgeon is not skilled at removing ruptured implants, the silicone can spill into healthy breast tissue, which then may need to be removed as part of the surgery. However, after an experienced explant surgeon removes implants, many women are very pleased with the way their breasts look and feel.