Suspected Breast Implant rupture: What do I need to do?

Any breast implant can rupture; this is a man-made medical device which does wear out with time.  Typically, the shell of an implant begins to lose its integrity after 10 years.  In many cases, the implant will remain intact.  However, if there is a sudden trauma to an aged breast implant, as during a car accident or serious fall, this can provoke an implant rupture.

When a saline implant ruptures, the patient will typically notice a decrease in the size of the breast.  The saline fluid leaks out and is absorbed by the body.  However, a silicone rupture is a little trickier to detect.  Because the fluid is much thicker and more cohesive, it stays within the pocket created for the implant.  In some cases, the patient may not notice the rupture at all.  In other cases, she may have pain, redness of the breast, or notice a subtle change in the shape of her breast.  For this reason, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends regular screening MRI’s for patients with silicone breast implants.

If you have a potential breast implant rupture that exhibits symptoms, you might experience:

  • – Changes in breast size or shape (distortion)
  • – Pain, soreness or swelling in the breast (typically in one breast)
  • – Lumps, softening or hardening in the impacted breast

If you have a rupture and no symptoms, it’s known as the ‘silent rupture’ – and can usually be detected on a breast MRI:

A silent implant rupture is where the individual has no recognisable symptoms of a breast implant rupture, even though there has been a compromise to the integrity of the breast implant’s shell. Because most women don’t notice when a silicone gel implant ruptures, the FDA recommends having a breast MRI 3 years after getting breast implants,  and every 2 years after that.

There are two main types of breast implant ruptures:

  • – intracapsular (within or contained by the fibrous capsule or breast pocket tissues);
  • – extracapsular, when silicone is said to leak.

Modern implants are made with cohesive gel contents, aimed to prevent leakage even in the event of an implant rupture.

What are the health implications of a ruptured implant?

There is no definitive research to suggest that there are any serious health implications connected with the rupture of breast implants beyond the presence of physical material in the body, which can be removed. However, once a rupture has occurred and is extracapsular then replacement is recommended. Intracapsular ruptures are also usually changed but this is not urgent.

What to do if you think your breast implant has ruptured?

If you think your implant has ruptured it is recommended that you contact your GP or surgeon as soon as possible and arrange for an assessment. Although there is no threat of serious health problems, the sooner a course of action is decided upon — either replacement or complete removal — the quicker incidents of capsule shrinkage, extrusion, gel migration and lumping can be mitigated.

Your surgeon will perform one of three actions to confirm whether or not you have a ruptured implant:

Mammogram – Only show gross signs of rupture with silicone in the breast.
Ultrasound – Often the easiest and most convenient method. Most surgeons recommend this test.
MRI – A very sensitive test that will confirm if there is a problem. Most surgeons recommend this test if uncertain from ultrasound.

From there, if needed, you may need to have surgery to replace the implants.