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Breast augmentation surgery is the most popular plastic surgery procedure in America and helps improve the self-esteem of women all over the world. A patient who undergoes the procedure should be informed that breast implants do not last forever and will likely need to be replaced at some point during the patient’s life. One reason an implant may need to be replaced is the occurrence of implant rupture.

Implant rupture is when the silicone shell of the implant tears or breaks open. This may be caused by the following:

  • Normal aging of the implant
  • Capsular contracture
  • Compression or intense physical pressure
  • Damage during breast procedures, such as fluid drainage and biopsies
  • Overfilling or underfilling of saline implants

Saline Implants

If the silicone rubber outer shell of a saline implant ruptures, the body will naturally and harmlessly absorb the sterile saltwater solution that leaks from inside the implant. The rupture will usually be extremely noticeable because the implant will deflate. As the saline solution leaks into the body, an obvious reduction in breast size will typically occur immediately or within a few days of the rupture.

Silicone Implants

The silicone gel inside of silicone implants is much thicker than saline solution. Therefore, after a silicone implant rupture, the gel may remain in the implant shell or in the scar tissue around the implant (intracapsular, or “silent,” rupture). The rupture may or may not be noticeable depending how extensive the silicone leak is. Fortunately, silicone that leaks outside the capsule surrounding the implant is not shown to cause breast cancer, reproductive problems, or connective tissue diseases. However, it may be difficult or impossible to remove silicone that leaks to parts of the body farther than the chest wall, armpit, or arm.

Signs of a potential silicone implant rupture include:

  • Decrease in breast size
  • Change in breast shape
  • Hard lumps in the breast
  • Uneven breast appearance
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Tingling, swelling, or numbness

If you think that your silicone implant has ruptured, Dr. Chin will need to confirm the rupture with an imaging test, such as an MRI scan.

The Surgery

The procedure to correct implant rupture is typically performed using general anesthesia, and the implant is surgically removed. (If a silent rupture has occurred with a silicone implant that does not cause any signs or symptoms, the patient may choose to wait and see if the rupture causes any problems before removal.)

Replacing an Implant

The ruptured implant may be replaced during the same procedure as the removal, if desired. Depending on the initial implant type, the choice of implant replacement type may be limited if the breast pocket has conformed to a particular shape. For example, round implants cannot generally be replaced with anatomical (teardrop) implants because the breast pocket will not correctly conform to fit the shape of the new implant.

Breast Lift Surgery

If the patient does not desire to replace the ruptured implants, breast lift surgery may be required after the implants are removed to achieve a more aesthetic breast appearance. Breast lift surgery removes excess skin and lifts the breasts to a more pleasing position on the chest. The nipples can also be adjusted to a more youthful position with this surgery.

Based on your individual circumstances and desires, Dr. Chin will help you decide the best plan of action to suit your needs.

After Surgery

Skin discoloration and some swelling may occur initially but should resolve over time. Prescription pain medication will help provide comfort. Recovery time with surgery to correct an implant rupture will be longer than the initial breast augmentation surgery, but most patients are able to return to work within 7 to 10 days. Heavy physical activity should be avoided for a minimum of one month.

Health Concerns

As with any surgical procedure, there are some risks associated with implant rupture correctional surgery. These include, but are not limited to the following: reactions to anesthesia, blood accumulation, infection, changes in nipple or breast sensation, capsular contracture, and implant deflation. Be sure to carefully follow Dr. Chin’s instructions both before and after surgery to help reduce your risks.


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