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Symptoms Of Breast Implant Rupture

Initially, when breast implants were first developed, rupturing was a common problem as the implant walls were very. Over time, the durability of the implant wall has improved and modern implants rupture occasionally.1

Breast implants are typically filled with saline or silicone gel and these implants may rupture because of age, trauma, and medical procedures such as post-cancer surgery. Studies on women with untreated silicone breast implant rupture show that it is a relatively harmless condition, which only rarely progresses and gives rise to notable symptoms.2

Though ruptured implants do not cause any medical issues, some women may experience tightness, changes in the contour or shape of the breast, minor discomfort, or skin rippling. Symptoms can differ from patient to patient. Silicone Implant rupture can be hard to detect and the only way is to perform an MRI. Here, we look at the signs and symptoms of silicone and saline implant rupture.

Types Of Silicone Ruptures

Predominantly, there are two types of silicone ruptures called Intra-Capsular Rupture and Extra-Capsular Rupture.

In an Intra-Capsular Rupture, the silicone leak is contained within the thick layer of scar tissue, called the capsule, which naturally grows around your implant. Sometimes, the capsule inflammation can cause additional scar tissue formation, resulting in a change in breast size or shape, pain, soreness (burning or tingling) or swelling, lumps, and hardening or softening of the breast.

Extra-Capsular Rupture usually only occurs in older ‘liquid’ gel implants, where the silicone leaks outside the capsule causing the silicone to spill into other parts of your body such as the lymph nodes in your breast and armpit. This causes small lumps to form that are called as siliconomas. Occasionally, when a gel bleed occurs, tiny particles of silicone released from the surface of a silicone breast implant enter the network of vessels and reach the lymph nodes, causing it to become swollen.

Reduction In Mass

A significant reduction in the mass of the breast is observed when a saline-filled implant containing sterile salt water ruptures. When this happens, the fluid leaks out of the capsule causing the implant to deflate and the breast loses volume. Loss of volume is also caused by a fluid leak outside the shell. Loss of size or shape of the implant may be noticed immediately, or it may occur slowly over a period of days.

Loss Of Shape

In a silicone gel-filled implant, due to the thick viscosity of the gel, the leak may not spread out of the capsule. This is called a silent rupture and may not be easily noticed by the doctor or the patient. But when the gel escapes outside the capsule, the loss of shape and size of the breast is obvious.

Silicone Gel-filled Implant Rupture

In the case of a silicone gel-filled implant rupture, the silicone gel can spill out of the capsule around the implant and spread to others parts of the body around the breast, causing lumps to develop in the breast, redness of the skin, chest wall, armpit, arm, or abdomen. This can manifest into reduced breast size, hard knots, irregular breast appearance, pain, tingling, swelling, numbness, burning, or changes in sensation.3

Symptoms Of Severe Gel Leak

  • Localized pain, discomfort
  • Axillary pain, discomfort
  • Constant burning sensation 4

Symptoms Of Soft Rupture

  • Discomfort and tightening of the breast
  • Sporadic Axillary pain5

The inert nature of silicone ensures that the rupture is harmless and does not produce significant clinical symptoms or activate the humoral immune system.6 It is important that women with silicone implants undergo regular MRIs as recommended by their doctor to ensure that the implants have not ruptured.7

References   [ + ]

1. Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) silicone breast implants – Advice to Women. Health In Wales.
2. Hölmich, Lisbet R., Ilse M. Vejborg, Carsten Conrad, Susanne Sletting, Mimi Høier-Madsen, Jon P. Fryzek, Joseph K. McLaughlin, Kim Kjøller, Allan Wiik, and Søren Friis. “Untreated silicone breast implant rupture.” Plastic and reconstructive surgery 114, no. 1 (2004): 204-214.
3. Breast Implant Complications. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2017.
4, 5, 6. Godwin, Yvette, Robert T. Duncan, Christine Feig, Michelle Reintals, and Sarah Hill. “Soft, Brown Rupture: clinical signs and symptoms associated with ruptured PIP breast implants.” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery–Global Open 2, no. 11 (2014): e249.
7. Hölmich, Lisbet R., Ilse M. Vejborg, Carsten Conrad, Susanne Sletting, Mimi Høier-Madsen, Jon P. Fryzek, Joseph K. McLaughlin, Kim Kjøller, Allan Wiik, and Søren Friis. “Untreated silicone breast implant rupture.” Plastic and reconstructive surgery 114, no. 1 (2004): 204-214.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.