What Happens If Your Silicone Implant Ruptures?

May 30, 2024

The majority of breast augmentation and rebuilding procedures are completed using silicone implants – you probably came across this when gathering facts on cosmetic breast surgery. But while these synthetic implants can last a long time, there is a small risk of implant complications such as capsular contracture and rupture. A ruptured implant will cause breast pain and possible changes in your breast contour. If you suspect that your breast implant has ruptured, this article tells you what to look for, and how to react to the rupture. 

How long do silicone breast implants last 

Breast implants do not actually expire. But this doesn’t mean they can always be expected to last a lifetime. There is a likelihood that the implant will need to be replaced at one point or the other. Most saline and silicone implants available in the market today can be expected to last anywhere between 10 and 20 years. However, up to 20 percent of women have their implants removed or replaced within 8 to 10 years, due to complications or aesthetic concerns. 

Symptoms of leaking breast implant 

Breast implant ruptures may be caused by the normal aging process, needle insertion during a biopsy, trauma caused by a car accident, or other factors. The signs of breast implant rupture depending on the type of implant:

  • Saline implants – if your saline implant ruptures, then you will know pretty quickly. These contain a highly fluid saltwater solution and will immediately deflate if this solution leaks out. It’s more or less the same thing as when you get a flat tire. There will be a difference in the size and shape of your breasts. When the saline solution leaks out of the implant, it is gradually reabsorbed by the body and does not harm you in any way. 
  • Silicone implants – silicone implants constitute a silicone shell that contains a fluid silicone gel. Because this gel is much thicker than the saline solution contained in saline implants, rupture is not easily noticeable. Once the implant leaks, the gel will stay inside the implant or the surrounding scar tissue and will not be absorbed by the body. This results in what is known as a silent (hardly noticeable) rupture. The majority of women do not have any other symptoms and the rupture is only detected using an imaging (MRI) scan. In some cases, symptoms may present themselves. These may include hard knots, a decrease in breast size, pain or tenderness, uneven breast appearance, swelling, tingling, numbness, burning, and changes in sensation. 
  • Gummy bear implants – gummy bear implants are a special type of silicone implants that contain a more viscous gel. For this reason, these tend to hold their shape and are less likely to leak in the event of implant failure. The most common causes of gummy bear implant failure include shell fracture or degradation, mechanical pressure, damage during surgery, blunt trauma, or injury to the chest. Symptoms of a gummy bear implant rupture may include firmness of the breasts, swelling or redness, pain, capsular contracture, or development of calcifications or granulomas. 

Saline and silicone implant ruptures need to be addressed by a plastic surgeon right away. If you suspect that you have a rupture, get in touch with your Phoenix plastic surgeon to arrange a timely consultation. 

Other complications that necessitate the removal of breast implants 

In addition to leakage and rupture, breast implants are also susceptible to various other complications that you should be on the lookout for. 

  • Capsular contracture – it is normal for a ‘capsule’ of scar tissue to form around the breast implant during the healing process. This happens as the body reacts to the foreign body (synthetic implant) and tries to isolate it by creating a barrier of scar tissue. The formation of this ‘capsule’ is actually a good thing because it helps keep your implants in place and prevents slippage. However, in some people, this capsule becomes unusually hard and begins contracting around the implant. This causes aesthetic distortion and may also lead to physical symptoms such as breast pain and tenderness. 
  • Rippling and palpability – rippling is another complication that occurs when the implant develops ripples and wrinkles. Palpability, on the other hand, refers to the ability to feel these ripples when you touch your breast. This kind of rippling may be caused by insufficient breast tissue, placement of implants over the chest muscle, and larger implant size. Saline implants are more prone to wrinkling and rippling compared to silicone breast implants. 
  • Implant malposition – breast implant malposition happens when breast implants appear disproportionate behind your breast. One implant may be too high than the other, leading to an upper bulge with the nipple tipping down. If the implants are too close to each other, then the skin will tent over and the breasts will appear as if they are joined together (usually referred to as a symmastia). If the implants appear too low, then the upper part of the breast will appear empty and the nipples will tip down. 

Breast implant burst consultation 

Many breast augmentation patients get very worried when they detect symptoms of silicone breast implant leakage. The first step should be to get in touch with a highly competent plastic surgeon so you can arrange for a corrective procedure. During your initial consultation with our Scottsdale plastic surgeon, the doctor will listen to your concerns and examine your chests for any visible symptoms. Imaging tests may be required in order to get a complete picture of the implant damage. Once the surgeon gets the facts right, he will collect further details regarding your medical history and work on a custom breast implant removal and replacement treatment plan to suit your needs. 

Breast implant removal and replacement surgery 

Saline or silicone implant ruptures need to be addressed through plastic surgery to get rid of the damaged implant and replace it with a new one. This procedure is performed in the surgeon’s in-office operating room or any other accredited medical facility. Anesthesia will be administered in order to keep you comfortable throughout the process. Once this is done, the surgeon will create an incision (typically) along the lower breast fold or around the areola. The next step will be to remove the damaged implant. In some cases, the surgeon will also remove the surrounding scar tissue in a procedure known as en bloc capsulectomy. Many women choose to have a replacement implant inserted at the same time in order to maintain their desired breast appearance. Keep in mind that the particulars of the surgery will vary depending on the precise needs of the patient. Once the procedure is complete, the surgeon will close the incisions using skin adhesives, sutures, tapes, or clips. 

Are there any alternatives to implants for breast augmentation surgery

Some women who have had breast implant leakage or rupture may opt for alternative augmentation techniques. Our Phoenix plastic surgeon also offers a natural augmentation technique that is known as fat transfer. This method entails taking excess fat from other parts of the body (tummy, buttocks, thighs, love handles, etc) and using it to achieve the desired breast size. Keep in mind that this procedure is not for everyone. You will need to be healthy and have enough excess fat in other parts of the body in order to qualify for fat transfer breast augmentation.  

Do ruptured breast implants cause cancer?

If a saline breast implant ruptures, then the implant will deflate, immediately affecting your breast size and shape. The leaked saline solution will be naturally absorbed by your body and does not pose any health risks. The remaining (ruptured) implant shell will need to be removed via breast implant removal plastic surgery. When a silicone implant ruptures, the silicone gel may still remain within the implant shell, causing no visible symptoms. This is precisely why imaging scans are required to detect silicone breast implant ruptures. Patients who have had a silicone implant rupture may experience pain, soreness, or swelling as the surrounding tissue becomes irritated. Other symptoms may include changes in breast size and shape, hardening, and the formation of lumps. Neither saline nor silicone breast implant ruptures are thought to cause breast cancer, problems with the reproductive system, or connective tissue ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis.