Silicone Implant Rupture


In 2013, almost 300,000 women and teenagers underwent surgery to have their breasts enlarged with silicone or saline implants and almost 100,000 breast cancer patients had reconstruction after mastectomy, often with implants. The popularity of breast augmentation has tripled since 1997, when there were just over 101,000 of these procedures.

Despite the increasing popularity, your plastic surgeon should explain that all surgical procedures have risks and expected benefits. One risk associated with breast augmentation is the risk of the implant shell weakening and developing a tear, or rupture, over time.

Silicone Implant Rupture

Ruptures in silicone implants are much more difficult to detect than in saline implants, as the cohesive silicone gel that fills these implants does not leak to the extent that saline does. Due to that, implant deflation does not occur following a silicone implant rupture.

What Causes Silicone Implant Rupture?

  • Damage to the silicone implant during other surgical procedure
  • Damage to the silicone implant during the original implantation
  • Blunt trauma
  • Penetrating or blast trauma to the chest
  • Mechanical pressure of the breast (mammograms and ultrasounds)

How will I know if my silicone implant has ruptured?

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

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

In cases where there is no symptoms or signs, it is called a “silent rupture”. In this case, you would not know that your implant has ruptured.

What happens in the event that it is a silent rupture?

The diagnosis of silicone implant rupture requires an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), as this test can identify small amounts of silicone that are outside the shell of the implant.

The FDA recommends that all patients obtain an MRI 3 years after a breast augmentation with silicone implants, and then every 2 years after. This has been recommended in order to detect silent rupture at an early stage, so that the implants can be removed before any long term problems occur.

What should I do if I think my implant is ruptured?

If you feel as though one or both of your silicone implants has ruptured, you should visit with your plastic surgeon. As mentioned above, the gold standard for diagnosing an implant rupture is an MRI scan. Following a positive diagnosis of a ruptured silicone implant, your plastic surgeon will devise a surgical plan.

What is the treatment for ruptured silicone implants?

It is important to have ruptured silicone implants 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 the lymph glands. If the silicone happens to travel to the lymph glands, these will require removal as well.

Your plastic surgeon will remove the ruptured implant via a procedure called explantation where the entire ruptured silicone implant as well as the tissue capsule surrounding it are completely removed.

Some surgeons recommend that patients have their silicone implants replaced after having had a ruptured implant removed. After a breast augmentation, the breast tissue stretches from the implant and may require a breast lift.