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If Your Breast Implant Breaks

Breast Implant Info

All implants break eventually. Some even break during the first few months, and the older your implant is, the more likely it is to break. However, it is not always obvious when an implant is broken. Here is some useful information.

When a saline breast implant breaks
When saline breast implants break, the contents usually leak very quickly. When this happens, the implant Ždeflates,' much like a balloon that has lost the air inside. A woman can see that her saline implant has broken because her breast has changed in size and/or shape in a short period of time. It's less common for saline to leak slowly, although it can happen. When the saline leaks out of its envelope, the body absorbs it. It's usually harmless, unless there is fungus or bacteria inside the implant. Leakage of non-sterile saline from the implant could lead to a potentially serious infection.

How do I know if my saline breast implant has broken?
Saline implant ruptures are usually obvious. You should be able to see the difference in the size and/or shape of your breast. An MRI or other imaging technique is not usually required.

When a silicone breast implant breaks
When a silicone gel breast implant breaks, the contents usually leak very slowly. A ruptured silicone gel implant can go completely unnoticed for many years. Sometimes the rupture is discovered only when the implant is removed.

When a silicone implant breaks, one of two things can happen to the leaking silicone gel. One possibility is that the leaking silicone can be contained within the scar tissue capsule, which is the thick layer of scar tissue that naturally builds up around the implant. When this happens, the silicone stays where it is. However, the silicone can leak outside of the scar tissue capsule. When this happens, silicone can migrate to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes under the arm and major organs such as the lungs where, it is impossible to remove. The longer a woman waits to have a ruptured silicone gel implant removed, the more time the silicone has to travel in her body.

How do I find out if my silicone implant has ruptured?
If your silicone gel implant ruptures, you could notice a change in the size or shape of your breast, pain or tenderness, swelling, numbness, burning or tingling. It is also highly possible to have a Žsilent rupture,' where you would not experience any of these symptoms. In this case, you would not know that your implant has broken.

Since you often can't see a difference in your breast when a silicone gel implant breaks, it is important to have an MRI. A mammogram is not reliable enough for detecting a broken silicone gel implant, and the squeezing could make the contents of the implant leak outside the scar capsule.

Can broken implants make me sick?
According to the FDA's research, women with leaking silicone implants are more likely to report fibromyalgia (a painful disorder) or several other painful and debilitating diseases. There is no research on the health risks of broken saline implants.

What do I do if my implant breaks?
Most experts agree that it is important to remove a ruptured implant as soon as possible, especially if it contains silicone gel. Removal of implants is called explantation.

Usually a ruptured saline implant is harmless, unless the saline contains bacteria, mold, or fungus, which can happen inside a woman's body. If your implant has broken, and you feel very sick, have a temperature, and/or a rash, you should see a doctor immediately. You could have an infection from contaminated saline.

It is important to have ruptured silicone gel implants removed as soon as possible. The longer the silicone is allowed to remain in the body, the more time it has to migrate to other parts of your body, like lungs or lymph nodes, where it can't be removed. Unfortunately, nobody knows for sure what will happen as a result of silicone in the body because no one has conducted any research on the subject.

Everybody is different. Some women do not respond strongly, if at all, to silicone. Others become very, very ill.

Explantation surgery
Removal of an intact implant is generally not recommended due to the risks involved in having surgery, such as infection, bleeding, and reaction to the anesthesia. However, women who are very ill sometimes find that their health improves dramatically after removal. A study of removed implants that were not replaced by Noreen Aziz and her colleagues found that 97% of women with pain and other rheumatology symptoms felt better after their implants were removed and not replaced. Many symptoms lessened or disappeared over the next few months. In contrast, 96% of the women who did not have their implants removed became even more ill.

Removing intact implants is not always complicated, but it can be very difficult to remove certain kinds of implants, such as foam covered implants (sometimes called the Meme), implants with hard capsules surrounding them, and implants that have ruptured. This kind of explanation sometimes involves removal of not just the implants, but also removal of some of the tissue and muscle surrounding the implant.

Removal of a silicone gel implant is more complicated than having it put in. This is particularly true if the implant is leaking or has ruptured, because it's very important to ensure that silicone gel from a broken implant does not spill or remain in the body.

The surgeon who performed the original surgery is not necessarily the best choice for removing the implants. Explantation results can be excellent or disastrous. Some plastic or cosmetic surgeons are very experienced at implantation, but not explantation. However, there are some plastic surgeons who are very experienced at removal and are especially skilled at getting the best possible cosmetic result. The surgeon you choose should be experienced with explantation, board certified, and should be willing to show you pictures of many patients' post-explantation results, or better still, offer to have former patients talk to you. Find out if they were happy with their doctor and with their results.

Most experts believe that removing the implants Žen bloc' is very important. This means that the entire implant and the entire scar tissue capsule surrounding it are all removed together. Although it is more difficult than removing just the implants, it makes it easier to remove any silicone that may have leaked from a broken gel implant, and also helps remove silicone or other chemicals that may have bled from the silicone outer envelope. You should ask your doctor if he/she would use this procedure.

Removing implants en bloc is particularly recommended by experts if you have been sick since receiving your implants. Some experts believe that symptoms such as joint pains, chronic flu-like symptoms, memory loss, confusion, or a burning sensation could be a result of silicone that has leaked from your implant, and perhaps outside the scar tissue capsule. If this is the case, leaving the scar tissue capsules, or part of them, and/or silicone in your body probably isn't going to let you recover as well as you might. It is also possible that while the silicone did not make you sick before, silicone that is left behind after explantation could make you sick later, because your body will respond to this foreign material.

What happens if I remove my implants and don't replace them?
Some surgeons discourage patients from removing their implants without replacing them, because they believe implants are safe and because they're concerned that the patient will be very unhappy with her appearance after the implant is removed. The breast tissue stretches from the implant, and if the surgeon isn't skilled in explantation without replacement, the breast is unlikely to be as attractive as it was before the implant surgery. If the surgeon is not skilled at removing ruptured implants, the silicone can spill into healthy breast tissue, which then may need to be removed as part of the surgery. However, after an experienced explant surgeon removes implants, many women are very pleased with the way their breasts look and feel.

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