What is ruptured breast implant removal?
After being in place for a number of years, a breast implant might rupture or leak.
If a saline implant ruptures, you’ll notice a deflation of the affected breast right away. This doesn’t pose a health risk, but you will likely want to correct the deflation for cosmetic reasons.
If a silicone implant ruptures, it can cause scar formation that results in uncomfortable, lumpy or hard breast tissue and can affect future mammograms, so it’s important to follow up immediately to arrange for your surgeon to remove them. The longer silicone gel is in direct contact with the tissues of the breast or chest wall, the more difficult it is to remove all the gel. If you had silicone implants placed before 1989, it’s likely that they are ruptured due to aging.
Talk to your surgeon right away if you have implants and notice any of the following outside of your yearly clinical breast exams:
- Changes in breast size or shape
- Hardening of the breast tissue
- Lump in the breast
- Persistent pain, swelling or tenderness
- Acute pain after mammogram that does not go away on its own within a few days
How ruptured breast implant removal works
If your leaking implant is causing symptoms, your surgeon will likely recommend removing it — and if you have implants in both breasts, might advise removing both at the same time. A small incision is made at the original incision site to remove the implant. If you have silicone implants, you may also need a capsulectomy, which removes the scar tissue where silicone gel has settled.
If you want new implants, they can likely be inserted during the same surgery after the old ones are removed; you might choose a different size, shape or type. Some people decide not to replace their implants and might choose to have a breast lift or other surgery to remove excess skin. Another option might be to have a breast reconstruction with a flap of tissue taken from another part of your body. Called “autologous reconstruction,” this surgery eliminates the risk of leaks or ruptures posed by implants.
How long does it take to recover from ruptured breast implant removal?
If you’re having implants replaced, recovery from this procedure is usually somewhat faster than from the original surgery, because the pocket for the implants already exists — but as with every surgery, recovery is highly individual. During your consultation, your doctor will talk with you about what to expect.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ruptured Breast Implant Removal
A. The most sensitive test to detect implant integrity is MRI. However, rupture can be also be detected on ultrasound, so that test may be required before an MRI can be ordered. It’s also possible for an implant to leak without any symptoms; this is called a “silent rupture.” If you or your surgeon think you may have a silent rupture, your surgeon can order an MRI or ultrasound to check. If rupture is suspected, mammography should not be performed until the issue has been clarified.
A. Implants aren’t meant to last a lifetime; after you’ve had implants for 10 years, whether saline or silicone, you should talk to a surgeon about whether you need to have them removed. If you had silicone implants placed before 1989, talk to your surgeon; you should assume that they have ruptured and make arrangements to have them removed.
A. A ruptured saline implant will cause the affected breast to deflate, which is not a health risk but is definitely a cosmetic concern. Ruptured silicone implants do pose a health hazard, and you’ll need to have them removed or exchanged as soon as you can.
A. In most cases, your surgeon will recommend removing both implants at the same time, particularly if the implants are older.
A. At this time, insurance often covers the removal of ruptured devices and the surrounding scar capsule, but does not cover implant replacement or breast lift.