Silicone breast implants: What happens if they rupture?

If silicone breast implants rupture, what are the possible complications?
from Sandhya Pruthi, M.D.

The major problem associated with ruptured silicone breast implants is the formation of scar tissue in the breast. If the rupture isn’t addressed, the scar tissue can lead to pain and changes in the contour or shape of the breast. However, there’s no scientific evidence that ruptured silicone breast implants cause serious, long-term health problems — such as breast cancer or connective tissue diseases.

When a breast implant is placed in your body, a fibrous capsule of scar tissue typically forms around the implant.

If a silicone breast implant ruptures, the leaking silicone gel may cause inflammation of the fibrous capsule and the formation of additional scar tissue.

The result may be a hard capsule around the breast implant that may distort the shape of your breast and cause pain or discomfort.
Most women have no signs or symptoms when a silicone breast implant ruptures. However, some women may experience:

-Pain, burning, tingling, swelling, numbness or redness in the affected breast
-Hard knots or lumps surrounding the implant or in the armpit
-Change in breast size or distorted breast shape
-Softening or hardening of the breast

If you have silicone breast implants and experience these signs or symptoms, consult your doctor. Rupture of a silicone breast implant can be confirmed by mammogram, ultrasound, CT scan or MRI of the breast. Treatment may include surgical removal of the implant and scar tissue and, possibly, insertion of a replacement breast implant. If you decide you don’t want breast implants any longer, you may need a breast lift.

Keep in mind that silicone breast implants aren’t guaranteed to last a lifetime. Your doctor may begin monitoring your silicone breast implants with routine MRI scans after the breast implants have been in place for three years. If an MRI scan detects an implant rupture but you don’t experience any signs or symptoms, it may be up to you to weigh the risks and benefits of keeping the implant or having it removed. Consult your doctor for advice.