Don’t panic! All breast implants will eventually break, so be prepared to take swift action when they do. An implant rupture is never fatal, but as with all medical issues, the sooner you act, the less likely you are to experience long-term damage or life-threatening complications.

If you have implants and notice any change in your breasts, you should see a doctor promptly.

Saline:

Saline ruptures are quite obvious. When a saline implant breaks, the body absorbs the fluid like a glass of water, no harm done. The breast will literally deflate and the implant has to be removed. Usually women opt to have their ruptured implant replaced at the same time.

The breast will become misshapen and possibly uncomfortable, but this is not an emergency-room incident. Set an appointment with your surgeon as soon as possible to take care of it.

Silicone:

Silicone ruptures are harder to tell. Silicone gel is less fluid than saline solution, so when a silicone implant breaks, the gel may remain in the implant, or within the scar tissue that surrounds the implant. If silicone does escape the implant cavity, however, it can form lumps elsewhere in the breast or surrounding areas.

But most silicone ruptures are easy to miss and can go unnoticed for years. The silicone in modern implants poses no threat to the body, but the immune system does not know this, and often walls silicone off behind scar tissue, which can cause discomfort.

Mammograms do not show silicone leakage, so an MRI is the best way to keep an eye out for these “silent” ruptures. The FDA recommends the first scan three years after implantation, and every two years after that.

If a silicone implant is ruptured, it will have to be surgically removed. Doctors recommend replacing the implant at the same time; your body has grown additional skin to make the implant fit naturally, and the breast will become flabby or dimpled in its absence.

Only 6 percent of women with breast implants experience a rupture within the first ten years; however, that number increases exponentially after the first ten years. So between the risk of rupture and other complications, every patient should anticipate further operations.

The FDA reminds potential patients that “breast implants are not lifetime devices. The longer a woman has implants, the more likely it is that she will need to have surgery to remove them.” All implants will eventually fail; the key thing is recognizing the rupture when it occurs, and taking prompt action to avoid permanent damage.