Breast implants are not lifetime devices. The FDA stresses this fact, and so should your surgeon. More than one in five women will return for a reoperation in the decade following their breast augmentation, and once the 10-year warranty runs out, the likelihood of a breast implant complication only increases. Women should expect complications and know what to do when they arise.

Saline Deflation:

When a saline implant ruptures, the liquid within leaks out quickly, and the body absorbs this saline solution like it would a glass of water. The implant will deflate noticeably within minutes: there’s not really anything a woman can do. Once it has deflated, you should schedule an appointment to have the implant replaced, not emergency-room immediately but as soon as possible.

Silicone Leakage:

Silicone implants contain a gel that does not leak out as quickly as saline solution when the implant ruptures. The new 410 Silicone Gel Implants introduced commercially in 2006 contain a gel that stays in place more firmly than in the outdated silicone implants taken off the market in 1992.

Nevertheless, silicone gel leaks slowly from the implants into the body over time. The body treats this as a foreign substance, and encapsulates the rogue silicone in scar tissue. This scarring, known as capsular contracture, can make the breast painfully firm, and should be surgically removed.

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Good And Bad Capsular Contracture:

Capsular contracture is a natural immune system response in which the body walls off the implant as it would any foreign object. The body will wall off a saline or silicone implant in the months following implantation. As a positive side effect, this scar tissue helps retain the silicone from migrating out into the body, slowing the damage of a ruptured implant.

In some patients, however, the body will go overboard when it develops this scar tissue, making the breast painful and stiff even if no silicone has leaked. More than rupture or other complications, capsular contracture is the leading reason for reoperation within the first ten years after breast augmentation.

In fact, the silicone used in implants is neither a known carcinogen or poisonous to the body, meaning a ruptured silicone implant poses no danger by itself. Complications arise only when the body grows scar tissue to deal with the leaked silicone, making reoperation necessary.


Because silicone implants leak slowly and the leakage does not show up on a mammogram (breast X-ray), the FDA recommends that women with breast implants receive a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) exam three years after breast augmentation, and once every two years thereafter. If leakage is found before excess capsular contracture occurs, the implant can most likely be removed easier and with less pain than otherwise.

Preventing Rupture:

While modern implants are designed to allow women to participate in the full range of activities they are accustomed to, implants can still break. Follow your surgeon’s instructions about what sort of activities to avoid with your implants.

Plane travel should not affect implants even as soon as 48 hours after surgery.

Avoid strenuous exercise or activity for three to four weeks after surgery, to allow the implants to drop and the body to expand to accommodate the new additions. At any time, however, avoiding high-contact activities will only increase your chances of keeping your implants intact.