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Silicone breast implants: What happens if they rupture?

If silicone breast implants rupture, what are the possible complications?

Ruptured silicone breast implants can cause breast pain or changes in the contour or shape of the breast. Ruptured silicone breast implants aren't thought to cause breast cancer, reproductive problems or connective tissue disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

When a silicone breast implant is placed in your body, fibrous tissue (capsule) forms around the implant. If the implant ruptures, it might go unnoticed because any free silicone tends to remain trapped in the surrounding tissue. This is known as a silent rupture.

It's possible, however, for the fibrous tissue to become inflamed. Additional scar tissue might form as well. This can lead to:

  • Pain, soreness or swelling in the affected breast
  • Change in breast size or shape
  • Lumps in the affected breast
  • Softening or hardening of the affected breast

If you have silicone breast implants and suspect that an implant might have ruptured, consult your doctor. He or she might rule out or confirm the rupture with an imaging test, such as an MRI scan.

If you have a silent rupture one that's not causing signs or symptoms treatment might be up to you. Some women take a wait-and-see approach, while others prefer to remove or replace the ruptured implant. Ask your doctor to help you weigh the pros and cons of both options.

If you have a ruptured silicone implant that's causing signs or symptoms, your doctor will likely recommend surgical removal. If you wish, a new implant can usually be inserted at the same time.

If you decide that you don't want breast implants any longer, the implants can be removed at any time. You might need a breast lift or other corrective surgery to help your breasts maintain an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

Keep in mind that breast implants aren't guaranteed to last a lifetime.

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration recommends routine MRI scans to detect silent ruptures in silicone breast implants starting three years after the implants are inserted and repeated every two years after that. Debate continues, however, on whether the benefit of routine MRI scans justifies the cost. There's also a concern that routine MRI scans have the potential to lead to unnecessary surgery.

Work with your doctor to determine what's best for you.

Updated: 8/16/2012

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