What Causes Breast Implant Rupture and How to Treat It 

At some point in time, all breast implants need to be replaced. You can’t get breast implants and then forget about them for the next fifty years. Whether your implant is filled with saline or silicone gel, most breast implant manufacturers state that implants will last around 10 years. However, many breast augmentation patients end up having implants for longer than 10 years without a hitch. But implants will come to the natural end of their life, or in some cases, they can rupture. Keep reading to find out what causes breast implants to rupture, how to spot them, and what you can do to fix them. 

What Causes Breast Implant Rupture?

All breast implants will come to the end of their life at some point. Although technological advancements in breast implants continue to arise, implants are not life-long products. The length of time your implants will last depends massively on the type of implant, where they were made, and if they have been subject to any trauma. Causes of breast implant rupture include: 

  • Typical ageing (implant shells become weaker over time) 
  • Trauma caused by a car accident or impact pressure 
  • Capsular Contracture (tightening of the capsule) 
  • Surgical error 
  • Too much compression during a mammogram 
  • Overfilling or underfilling of the implant

Back in 2010, PIP breast implants were removed from the UK as they had been fraudulently manufactured with unapproved silicone and were far more prone to rupture than other implants. PIP implants are 2 to 6 times more likely to rupture than standard silicone implants. While ruptured PIP breast implants have no long-term proven health effects, it shows how implant choice and material type play a role in reducing the risks associated with breast augmentation. 

Breast Implant Rupture Symptoms 

Breast implant ruptures present differently in saline and silicone implants. With a saline implant rupture, the saline leaks out quickly over a few days. Typically, the breast appears somewhat deflated almost immediately. So, the appearance of your breast should change quite soon. It may look smaller, deflated, and often ripples due to the lost volume. When the saline leaks out of the implant, harmless saltwater escapes and is absorbed into the body. 

Other signs of breast implant rupture include: 

  • Breast pain 
  • Skin tenderness
  • Changes in nipple sensation 
  • Increasing swelling and firmness
  • Ripples and lumps may be obvious 
  • Change in breast shape 

With a silicone gel implant, it’s a little more difficult to detect a rupture. This is because the silicone gel doesn’t quickly escape. Instead, it slowly leaks from the implant. It seeps into the body slowly. You may experience breast pain or tenderness, or changes in the shape of the breast. 

Before and After Breast Implant Rupture

Breast re-augmentation and removal of breast implant rupture

Breast Implant Rupture Mammogram 

A silent rupture occurs when you have no idea that it’s happening. Because the rupture is contained in the capsule, it can go unnoticed. A mammogram can spot breast implant rupture, but only when it’s outside of the capsule. So, breast imaging can see free silicone within the breast. 

However, because silicone is dense, a breast implant rupture within the capsule is hard to spot with a mammogram. In general, detention of breast implant ruptures with mammograms is difficult with intracapsular ruptures. An ultrasound or MRI are the best ways to identify and diagnose breast implant rupture. 

Can You Get a Breast Implant Rupture During a Mammogram? 

Some people with breast implants express concern about whether a mammogram will cause breast implants to rupture under the pressure. It’s very rare that a mammogram would cause breast implants to rupture. But it’s important that you let your doctor or nurse know so that they can perform the mammogram effectively. 

A mammogram is a low-risk procedure with the benefit of early cancer detection far outweighing the slight risk of implant rupture. Many women have mammograms perfectly safely with breast implants. 

Is Breast Implant Rupture an Emergency?

It’s difficult to say how common breast implant rupture is in the UK as there is little information on the overall rate of rupture. However, modern implants do appear to rupture less. A breast implant rupture isn’t necessarily a medical emergency. Different fillers react differently within the body. 

In most cases, the silicone-filled remains in the capsule. The rupture of the breast implant isn’t an emergency in itself, but it’s still important that you treat the rupture as soon as you can. The faster you treat the issue; the less internal scar tissue will form. It can also reduce the amount of capsular collapse. 

As you can rupture a breast implant from impact or injury, it’s important that you seek medical care if you need it. Although the actual implant rupture shouldn’t be a medical emergency, you may need some other help. You should still contact your doctor or plastic surgeon as soon as you can to find a solution to the problem. In general, the advice is that if you have a ruptured breast implant, then it should come out. 

How to Treat a Breast Implant Rupture 

Today’s silicone implants have a thicker outer shell and gel that tends to last a bit longer than saline implants. But, silicone ruptures can go undetected, meaning that silicone can migrate in the body. Because of this, many doctors recommend an MRI scan every few years after your surgery to monitor the implants. 

If you think you have a breast implant rupture, the first thing to do is to contact your surgeon. Your surgeon will then take steps to find out more by getting an MRI, mammogram, or ultrasound. An ultrasound is one of the most common ways to find out if the breast implant has ruptured. Your surgeon will then make a plan that may require surgery to remove the implant and replace it with a new one. 

Breast Implant Removal 

Breast implant removal is either a standalone procedure or carried out before inserting new implants. But if you no longer want breast implants, you may consider a breast lift or breast fat transfer surgery to remove excess skin and reposition the breasts into a higher position. 

When removing breast implants, your plastic surgeon will use the previous incisions from your breast enlargement to keep scarring to a minimum. Often, breast implant removal is performed alongside a breast lift. This is because the breasts can sometimes look flat after removing implants.  

Breast Implant Removal Before and After 

Implant removal, capsulectomy, breast re-augmentation - the Harley Clinic

Breast Re-Augmentation 

If you choose to replace your implants, your surgeon will usually remove implants and insert new ones in the same breast re-augmentation procedure.  

Breast Implant Risks and Complications 

Breast implant risks and complications are uncommon. But it’s important that you know all the risks associated with the procedure. The most common breast implant complications include: 

Breast Implant Rippling 

Breast implant rippling occurs when you can visibly see the implant rippling under the skin. Some people may experience breast implant rippling but not be aware of it. Others may experience it more severely. Unfortunately, rippling will not go away on its own. Although it’s not medically serious, it can impact the look of your implants. 

Capsular Contracture

Capsular contracture occurs when the capsule around the breast implant becomes too tight and unusually hard. When this happens, it can start to contract around the implant, distort shape, and can become painful. Depending on how severe the capsular contracture is, you may need to remove it surgically with a capsulectomy

Breast Implant Illness 

Breast implant illness refers to a wide range of symptoms that can develop after breast enlargement with implants. A small number of patients experience symptoms after getting breast implants like: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Chronic joint and muscle pain 
  • Depression and anxiety 
  • Problems concentrating 
  • Insomnia 

Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)

BIA-ALCL is a rare type of cancer of the immune system. This type of cancer occurs mainly in people with breast implants. It can develop in the scar tissue of the implant and, in some cases, spread to the rest of the body. Early detection is crucial to a good outcome. 

Other risks and complications of breast implants include, but are not limited to:

  • Deflation 
  • Think and obvious scarring 
  • Hardening of breast tissue 
  • Infection 

Breast implants don’t come with a lifetime guarantee, and the longer you have them, the more likely something is to go wrong. That’s not to say that some patients can’t have implants for years with absolutely no problems at all. 

By having a good understanding and awareness of the risks associated with breast augmentation, you can watch out for any symptoms that may arise. Choosing an expert breast surgeon will put you in the strongest position possible for great results. 

If you have any concerns about your breast implants and would like to speak to an expert plastic surgeon, please book a consultation today, please call 0203 582 4947 or email [email protected].

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