Breast Implant Rupture—Everything You Need to Know

Breast Implant Rupture

Breast implants have improved so much since they were first invented. The chances of an implant rupturing have decreased, but it is still a possible complication following a breast augmentation.

Try not to worry... breast implant rupture is not this dramatic!

A rupture is a tear or hole in the outer shell of the implant.

The chances of a breast implant rupturing depends on the type (silicone or saline) and the length of time the implant has been in place.

The older the breast implant the greater the risk of rupture.

You may have already read somewhere on EKI that breast implants are typically not lifetime devices. Although you don't need to replace them every 10 years (a common breast augmentation misconception).

Breast implants do age over time, just like anything else. And so, the chances of a rupture increases the longer you have your breast implants.

The chances of a rupture in the first couple of years can be as low as 0.5% (the lowest risk is with silicone and slightly higher with saline).

Detecting a Breast Implant Rupture

Depending on the type of breast implant you have (silicone or saline), an implant rupture shows up differently.

If a silicone gel-filled breast implant ruptures it is not always immediately obvious.  A rupture usually causes a very slow leak of silicone if the implant shell tears or breaks.

silicone gel breast implant rupture or leak

Around a third of silicone breast implant ruptures are 'silent' (meaning there are no symptoms). If the rupture is noticed it's usually because any silicone gel that leaks out of the implant shell irritates the surrounding breast tissue.

It's important to contact your surgeon if you have silicone breast implants and you notice any:

  • Change in breast size or shape

  • Pain, soreness (burning or tingling) or swelling in your breast(s)

  • Lumps in your breast

  • Change in breast softness (firmness can result from a ruptured silicone implant)

The newer 'cohesive' style silicone breast implants are designed (if they rupture) not to leak any silicone outside the scar tissue that naturally forms in the breast around your implant, because the gel is more 'stable' and so stays together.

Women who have silicone breast implants are usually advised by the FDA to have an MRI 3 years after you get your implants and then every 2 years after that (to help detect any silent ruptures). This won't be included in the cost of your breast augmentation so you should factor this in when budgeting.

If a saline-filled breast implant ruptures it is usually more obvious. That's because saline is a liquid, so if the implant shell breaks the breast implant deflates.

saline breast implant rupture or leak

Sometimes the deflation can be very quick but either way you'll notice a change in the size and shape of a breast if a saline implant ruptures. A ruptured saline breast implant can also cause some breast pain.

Your body will absorb the saline, and it naturally makes its way out of your body (via the toilet)!

If you are in any doubt, or you have any worries about rupture, always contact your surgeon for advice.

What causes a Breast Implant to Rupture?

Sometimes there can be no apparent cause of a breast implant rupture. The most common known causes are:

  • Damage to the implant during placement (which is why it's so important to choose an experienced Board Certified plastic surgeon), or

  • Some type of trauma to the breast after surgery.

Dealing With a Breast Implant Rupture

When a silicone gel-filled implant ruptures, the gel may remain in the implant shell or in the scar tissue that naturally forms around the breast implant (this is called an 'intracapsular rupture').

In some cases, the silicone goes outside of scar capsule (this is called an 'extracapsular rupture').

Different diagnostic tests can be used to detect silicone implant ruptures, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), mammography, ultrasound, and computerized tomography (CT).

breast implant rupture

When implants rupture, the manufacturer's warranty usually covers the cost of replacement. So make sure you keep your paperwork somewhere safe!

The only solution to deal with a ruptured breast implant is revision surgery. Your surgeon will advise removal of the ruptured implant, removal of the scar tissue capsule (called a 'capsulectomy') and (if you choose to) placement of a new breast implant.

You can protect your investment by routinely following-up with your surgeon and following your post-op instructions in the short and long-term. That way you will be best prepared for your new boobie relationship and any complications that may arise:)

Thoughts from Dr. Glenn Davis

Implant rupture is rare, but can occur, particularly as implants age. Depending on whether the implant is filled with saline or silicone, you may or may not notice it immediately, but we know that either way there is no risk to your health.

Likely though, you would elect to have the implant replaced to address any asymmetry. The newest silicone implants that we now use are incredibly durable and we expect them to have a very low risk of rupturing.