Do you have a Ruptured Breast Implant? Warning Signs of a Breast Implant Rupture
A breast implant rupture is where a saline or silicone breast implant sustains a tear or a hole due to a number of reasons. This is called a ‘breast implant rupture’ and it is important to recognise the possible signs in order to identify the problem early on and seek proper help. The implant fill material (fluid or gel) may leak out to surrounding breast tissue.
Most Breast implants are designed to be replaced every 10 to 20 years but can last a lifetime without causing any problems. Older implants are more likely to rupture due to early design limitations and prolonged wear and tear over time. Symptoms of Breast Implant Rupture can vary depending on the brand, age and type of breast implant you had implanted and the way they were inserted by the surgeon during your breast surgery.
Once you get diagnosed, you can discuss the various treatment options with your plastic surgeon – typically implant removal or replacement. Symptoms of rupture are significantly different for saline implants vs silicone implants.
What can cause your breast implant to rupture?
Breast implants are usually very resilient and do not rupture easily. However, in some uncommon instances, implants may rupture for the following reasons:
- Normal ageing of certain types of implants can eventually lead to some wear and tear, and cause the implant to rupture. This may be accelerated by some surgeons improperly selecting or positioning the implant.
- Intense physical trauma to the breast, such as a car accident could lead to breast implant rupture. It is unlikely that normal physical activities will trigger a rupture.
- Accidental perforation during the initial implant surgery is thought to be responsible for half of the cases of breast implant rupture. The implant can sustain a microscopic perforation during insertion, which in turn becomes larger and leads to a rupture later on.
- Accidental perforation during a breast biopsy for reasons unrelated to the breast implant, such as when your doctor is investigating a certain breast mass.
- Compression during a mammogram may be one of the contributing causes but it is unlikely for modern silicone implants
- Some early implants had softer shells (coating) that were more likely to rupture
Physical contact and manipulation that is not intense or traumatic and things like coughing or sneezing do not usually cause breast implants to rupture. A lot more energy is needed for the rupture to occur.
What are the symptoms of breast implant rupture?
Symptoms can vary based on whether you have a silicone or a saline breast implant, however, many of them are similar:
- Losing breast size: this is particularly noticeable with saline implants, where the implants can fully deflate within 2 or 3 days after sustaining a perforation, and the saline solution leaks out and becomes completely absorbed by the surrounding tissue. This abrupt loss in breast size will immediately alert you that your breast implant has ruptured. Saline solution is just saltwater and does not cause any problems if absorbed by your body.
- Ongoing ache or pain in your breast: pain can be caused by the material pushing against the normal breast tissue and underlying muscle, inflammation, or stretching of the overlying skin due to loss of breast size and breast drooping.
- Misshapen breast: If you have a ruptured silicone implant, you might not notice any loss in size for a long time. The reason is that silicone is a thick gel-like material that is not absorbed by your body, so it tends to stay in place even if the implant has ruptured. Nevertheless, your body will try to contain any silicone gel seeping in your breast tissue by forming scar tissue around it, called “granulomas” or “siliconoma”. Over time, this scar tissue growing around the free silicone can form a hard capsule or contracture, causing your breast shape to change significantly – giving you an unusual and noticeable breast shape deformity.
- Breast lumps: Specifically with silicone implants, even if the breast shape and size are unchanged, discovering a new lump can be a sign of implant rupture and is worth investigating.
How is a breast implant rupture diagnosed?
If you suspect your breast implant has ruptured, you should immediately call your specialist plastic surgeon and let them know of your concerns. The surgeon will ask you to come in for a review consultation to undergo a thorough physical exam.
To help diagnose or confirm the breast implant rupture, your plastic surgeon may refer you for an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) of your breasts. MRI is considered the best imaging method for assessing breast implants. Unfortunately, it can be expensive and may rarely miss implant perforations, especially if they are small. Other diagnostic options are an ultrasound but these are not as good and can give false indications.
Surgery options for a breast implant rupture
If your breast implant has ruptured, you’ll need to visit an experienced specialist plastic surgeon for corrective breast surgery. The surgery for breast implant rupture can be complicated and more technically demanding than the initial implant surgery.
You have a choice of Breast Implant Removal or Breast Implant Replacement Surgery.
During the breast implant removal part of the surgery, your surgeon will make an incision in your breast and remove the ruptured implant. If you had had a silicone implant, the surgeon will also remove any free silicone gel, granulomas and any scar tissue (capsule) that formed after the rupture. Most surgeons remove the implant in your other breast as well.
Your surgeon may remove all or just part of your implant capsule (performing a Capsulectomy or a Capsulorrhaphy to tighten and reposition the capsule). Another option is to remove the entire capsule and surrounding tissue as well.
Your plastic surgeon may choose to offer you new implants during the same surgery, usually of more modern design. Some surgeons prefer to remove the implant and wait several months before replacing it. You can also discuss other breast surgery options, such as a breast lift or additional fat transfer to your breasts.
Is breast implant removal surgery covered by Medicare and health insurance?
Even though most insurance companies do not cover complications from previous cosmetic surgeries, breast implant rupture may be covered as a medical necessity, and hence the costs of implant removal can be covered by health insurance in these instances.
The following Medicare item numbers may be relevant (visit the MBS website for precise definitions and eligibility criteria)
- 45548 Removal of Breast Implant
- 45553 Remove and Replace Breast Implants due to a complication
- 45554 Remove and Replace implants due to complication
- 45551 Breast Implant Removal with of at least half the capsule
- 45558 Breast Lift Mastopexy with an item number
Which are the best plastic surgeons to treat ruptured breast implants?
Most of our plastic surgeons can offer breast implant removal or replacement along with a lift or fat transfer etc. This is all discussed in the consultation and agreed to by you and the surgeon. We have several talented plastic surgeons, experienced in breast surgery and treating breast implant complications, located in Melbourne and around Australia.
If you have any concerns regarding your breast implants or questions you would like to ask one of our plastic surgeons, please call, or book an appointment to get a full assessment.
Further Reading – Medical Sources:
- Find out more about:
Why Choose Coco Ruby Plastic Surgery?
Not all Surgeons have the same experience or intensive training and testing qualifications. Be sure to find out the differences between a Specialist Plastic Surgeon, a General Surgeon, a so-called ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’ or other types of Doctors.
Choosing a Specialist Plastic Surgeon means you are choosing an accredited recognised plastic surgeon that performs surgery in an accredited hospital. Look for members of FRACS, ASPS, ASAPS or ISAPS as some of the minimum Qualifications of your Plastic Surgeon.