What Causes Breast Implant Rupture?

Breast implant rupture

Potential Risks and Complications of Breast Implants

Breast implants have become increasingly popular over the years, with many women opting for this cosmetic procedure to enhance their appearance. However, like any surgical procedure, breast implants come with certain risks, including the possibility of implant rupture. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the causes of breast implant rupture and what you can do to minimise your risk.

What is Breast Implant Rupture?

Breast implant rupture occurs when the outer shell of the implant develops a tear or hole, allowing the contents of the implant to leak out into the surrounding tissue. There are two types of breast implant rupture:

  • Intracapsular Rupture: This type of rupture occurs when the implant leaks, but the contents remain contained within the capsule of scar tissue that naturally forms around the implant.
  • Extracapsular Rupture: In this case, the implant leaks, and the contents escape outside the capsule, potentially spreading to other areas of the body.
Breast Implants - Shape Matters

Causes of Breast Implant Rupture

Several factors can contribute to the risk of breast implant rupture, including:

1. Age of the Implant

One of the most significant factors in breast implant rupture is the age of the implant. While modern implants are designed to be durable, they are not meant to last a lifetime. The older the implant, the higher the risk of rupture. On average, breast implants have a lifespan of about 10 to 15 years, after which the risk of rupture increases significantly.

2. Type of Implant

There are two main types of breast implants: silicone and saline. While both types can rupture, the consequences and detection of rupture differ between the two.

  • Silicone Implants: When a silicone implant ruptures, the silicone gel may remain within the implant shell or leak into the breast pocket. This type of rupture can be difficult to detect, as the breast may maintain its shape and feel. In some cases, a “silent rupture” can occur, which may only be detected through imaging tests like an MRI.
  • Saline Implants: If a saline implant ruptures, the saline solution will leak out, and the implant will deflate, causing a noticeable change in breast size and shape. The body will absorb the saline solution without causing harm.

3. Trauma or Injury

Trauma or injury to the chest area can cause breast implant rupture. This can include accidents, falls, or even severe compression of the breast during activities like contact sports. It’s essential to protect your breasts from direct trauma and to seek medical attention if you experience any injury to your chest area.

4. Surgical Error

While rare, surgical error during the initial breast implant procedure can increase the risk of rupture. This can include damage to the implant during insertion or incorrect placement of the implant. Choosing an experienced plastic surgeon can help minimise the risk of surgical error.

5. Capsular Contracture

Capsular contracture is a complication that occurs when the scar tissue around the implant becomes thick and tight, squeezing the implant. This can cause pain, hardness, and distortion of the breast shape. In severe cases, capsular contracture can put pressure on the implant, increasing the risk of rupture.

6. Breast Compression

Certain activities or habits that involve repeated compression of the breasts can potentially increase the risk of implant rupture over time. This includes:

  • Sleeping on your stomach
  • Participating in high-impact sports without proper support
  • Receiving mammograms without informing the technician about your implants

While these activities don’t guarantee implant rupture, it’s essential to be mindful of your implants and take steps to protect them from unnecessary stress.

Symptoms of Breast Implant Rupture

The symptoms of breast implant rupture can vary depending on the type of implant and the severity of the rupture. Some common signs include:

  • Changes in breast size, shape, or symmetry
  • Pain, tenderness, or swelling in the breast
  • Lumps or rippling in the breast
  • Numbness or tingling in the breast or arm

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult your plastic surgeon for an evaluation.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you suspect a breast implant rupture, your plastic surgeon will likely recommend imaging tests, such as an MRI or ultrasound, to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment for implant rupture usually involves surgical removal of the damaged implant and replacement with a new one, if desired.

In some cases, your surgeon may recommend removing both implants, even if only one has ruptured, to maintain symmetry and prevent future complications.

How to Minimise Your Risk of Breast Implant Rupture

While breast implant rupture cannot be entirely prevented, there are several steps you can take to minimise your risk and ensure the longevity and safety of your implants.

One of the most important factors in reducing your risk of complications is choosing an experienced plastic surgeon for your breast implant procedure. A qualified surgeon will have the skills, knowledge, and expertise to properly select and place your implants, as well as to identify and address any potential issues that may arise.

Once you’ve chosen your surgeon, it’s essential to follow their pre- and post-operative instructions carefully. This may include guidelines on preparing for surgery, managing pain and swelling after the procedure, and caring for your incisions to promote proper healing. Adhering to these instructions can help minimise your risk of complications and ensure the best possible results.

Regular follow-up appointments with your plastic surgeon are another key aspect of minimising your risk of implant rupture. These appointments allow your surgeon to monitor the condition of your implants, check for any signs of potential issues, and address any concerns you may have. Typically, you’ll have several follow-up visits in the first few months after your surgery, followed by annual check-ups to ensure the long-term health of your implants.

It’s important to remember that breast implants are not lifetime devices and may need to be replaced at some point. Most manufacturers recommend replacing implants after 10 to 15 years, although this can vary depending on the individual and the type of implant used. Your plastic surgeon can provide guidance on when to consider replacement based on your specific situation. Planning for eventual implant replacement can help you stay proactive about your breast health and minimise the risk of complications related to ageing implants.

Protecting your breasts from trauma is another important step in reducing your risk of implant rupture. This includes wearing supportive, well-fitting bras, especially during physical activities. If you participate in high-impact sports or activities, consider wearing additional protective gear, such as a sports bra or a chest protector, to minimise the risk of direct trauma to your breasts. Be mindful of your implants when engaging in activities that involve physical contact or pressure on the chest area.

Finally, if you undergo mammograms for breast cancer screening, it’s crucial to inform the mammogram technician about your breast implants. This allows them to use special techniques and take additional views to ensure accurate imaging of your breast tissue. Implants can obscure some areas of the breast on a mammogram, so it’s essential to work with a facility that is experienced in imaging women with breast implants to ensure the most reliable results.

Silicone Implant Safety Concerns

In the past, there were concerns about the safety of silicone breast implants, particularly in relation to silicone leakage and its potential health effects. In the 1990s, the use of silicone implants was restricted in the United States due to these concerns. However, after extensive research and improvements in implant design, the FDA lifted the restrictions on silicone implants in 2006.

Modern silicone implants are made with a cohesive gel that is less likely to leak into the body if the implant ruptures. While silicone leakage can still occur, studies have not found a definitive link between silicone implants and systemic diseases like autoimmune disorders or cancer.

Importance of Monitoring and Maintenance

Breast implants are not lifetime devices, and it’s important for women to understand the importance of regular monitoring and maintenance to ensure the health and longevity of their implants. This includes:

  • Annual check-ups: Scheduling annual exams with a plastic surgeon to assess the condition of the implants and check for any signs of complications.
  • Imaging tests: Undergoing periodic imaging tests, such as MRIs or ultrasounds, to screen for silent ruptures or other issues that may not be detectable through physical examination alone.
  • Replacement planning: Considering implant replacement after 10-15 years, or sooner if recommended by a plastic surgeon due to specific concerns.

By staying proactive and informed about the status of their breast implants, women can minimise the risk of complications and ensure the best possible long-term results.

Alternatives to Traditional Implants

For women who are concerned about the risks associated with traditional silicone or saline implants, there are alternative options to consider, such as:

  • Fat transfer: This procedure involves using the patient’s own fat, harvested from another area of the body, to enhance breast size and shape. While the results may be less dramatic than traditional implants, fat transfer offers a more natural option without the risks of implant rupture or BIA-ALCL.
  • Autologous tissue reconstruction: This method uses tissue from another part of the patient’s body, such as the abdomen, back, or buttocks, to create new breasts. This option is more commonly used in breast reconstruction after mastectomy.

FAQs about What Causes Breast Implant Rupture


Can I breastfeed with breast implants, and does it increase the risk of rupture?

  • In most cases, women with breast implants can successfully breastfeed without increasing the risk of implant rupture. However, it’s essential to discuss your plans to breastfeed with your plastic surgeon before undergoing breast implant surgery, as the incision placement may impact your ability to breastfeed.

Is it possible to have a mammogram with breast implants, and how does it affect the accuracy of the results?

  • Yes, women with breast implants can and should have regular mammograms. However, it’s crucial to inform the mammography technician about your implants, as special techniques and additional views may be required to ensure accurate results. Implants can obscure some breast tissue, so it’s important to work with a facility experienced in imaging women with breast implants.

What is the recovery time after surgery for a ruptured breast implant, and what can I expect during the healing process?

  • Recovery time after surgery for a ruptured breast implant can vary depending on the extent of the procedure and whether the implant is replaced. In general, patients can expect to take about a week off work and limit physical activities for several weeks. Swelling, bruising, and discomfort are common during the initial healing process, but these symptoms should subside over time. Your plastic surgeon will provide specific post-operative instructions and guidance on when you can resume normal activities.

Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to reduce the risk of breast implant rupture?

  • While some factors contributing to implant rupture, such as age and implant type, cannot be controlled, there are lifestyle changes you can make to minimise your risk. These include wearing supportive bras, avoiding high-impact activities without proper support, and protecting your breasts from direct trauma. Maintaining a stable weight and not smoking can also help promote overall breast health and implant longevity.

How much does surgery for a ruptured breast implant typically cost, and is it covered by insurance?

  • The cost of surgery for a ruptured breast implant can vary depending on factors such as the surgeon’s fee, facility costs, and the complexity of the procedure. In some cases, insurance may cover the cost of surgery for a ruptured implant if it is deemed medically necessary. However, policies vary, so it’s essential to check with your insurance provider and discuss your options with your plastic surgeon.

Further Reading about Breast Implants

Medical References about Breast Implant Rupture