If you’re going to pay thousands of dollars for breast implants, you want to be as sure as possible that they won’t rupture.  Fortunately, modern implant technology means implants are safer and longer-lasting than ever. Nevertheless, breast implants don’t last forever. But while implants have a limited product life, they can last for decades inside a woman’s body. 

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Saline Deflation 

A saline rupture is easy to spot. The implant simply deflates as the body absorbs escaped saline solution While saline implants are slightly more likely to rupture than their silicone counterparts, also cause fewer complications when they do; the body absorbs the saltwater, no harm done, and most patients will have the empty shell surgically removed and replaced.

Even silicone implants that do not rupture deflate slowly over time.  The most common saline implants are empty sacks inflated after insertion; these show a lower rate of deflation and leakage than prefilled saline implants. Nevertheless, more than 85 percent of patients with saline implants remained satisfied ten years after implantation. 

Silicone Gel Rupture

Many manufacturers and surgeons champion silicone-gel implants as more realistic-feeling than the harder saline sacks. Since their re-introduction in 2006, they are safer and suppler than ever.

New cohesive-gel implants contain semi-solid silicone gel, making them less likely to leak than earlier silicone-liquid implants and less likely to cause harm should they leak into the body.

Silicone ruptures can be hard to spot, because the gel doesn’t absorb into the body as quickly as saline solution, so a so-called “silent” silicone rupture may escape notice for years. The FDA recommends that women get an MRI three years after implantation and every two years after that to check for silicone leakage.

A silicone rupture often means more complications. Many patients develop some degree of capsular contracture, an immune system response in which the body walls off the leaking implant behind a layer of internal scar tissue. Capsular contracture causes the breast to sag and harden.  Only surgery can reverse the damage: contracture is the reason for surgery in 50 percent of breast reoperation surgeries.

Fortunately, today's silicone implants are made of material significantly less likely to cause problems than earlier, banned compounds.

The Risks

A breast implant rupturing inside the body strikes a frightening image, but the same 2006 study referenced above concluded that reoperation on account of saline deflation or silicone rupture accounts for only 6 percent of breast reoperations, with another 22 percent on account of the minor leakage expected in these man-made devices.

Today’s breast implants are safer and more durable than their predecessors, and a rupture usually means nothing more than another surgery. Still, would-be patients must realize that implants are simply medical devices; it’s only natural they break down over time.