My right saline implant ruptured or had a slight leak some time ago. I had my surgery 8 years ago, and my surgeon is in another state some 2000 miles away. How long can I live with this deflated saline implant in my body before it causes harm? Should I have it replaced or removed immediately?
How Long Can Ruptured Saline Implants Stay in my Body?
Doctor Answers (27)
Saline implant removal entirely up to you
The best time to replace a ruptured saline implant is immediately after the deflation is noticed. The reason for this is that the capsule, or scar layer surrounding the implant will begin to shrink down around the deflated implants.
After a certain time passes (approximately 2-4 weeks), replacing the implant may require opening of the shrunken capsule to accommodate the volume of the new implant. In your case, the deflation happened "some time ago." If this time is longer than about 4 weeks, you would likely require capsulotomy for proper positioning of the new implant.
Aside from this, there is no inherent danger in waiting to have your implant removed and replaced, other than cosmesis.
When should ruptured saline implants be removed is up to you
There is no medical necessity for removing a ruptured saline implant, the saline (saltwater solution) will be safely absorbed by your body, it will be basically determined by you, the patient, as to how soon after deflation this should take place. Deflations can happed any time after surgery, they can happen overnight or they can be slow in progression.
Implants come with a lifetime warranty (these can vary from company to company check with your physician) and deflation due to crease fold failure, patient trauma, or unknown cause and loss of valve integrity is covered. One word of caution, the longer you wait, the contracure of the space will occur so try to replace them earlier than later.
No rush in replacing deflated saline implants, but don't wait too long
There is no rush to change your implants unless you are bothered by the size change and/or asymmetry. The saline will get reabsorbed and it is safe. However, I would not wait months or years as you will get some contraction of the capsule or scar around the implant, as it is smaller now and some contraction of your skin occurred.
Therefore, the exchange surgery will be a bit more involved in releasing the capsule so you can get back to the size you were before the implants deflated. It may also cause some additional discomfort post-op -- but nothing like the original surgery. Pick a time that is good for you but in the near future and not too distant future.
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We have had patients wait as long as a year without undue effects from a ruptured breast implant..
A ruptured saline breast implant is noticed almost immediately in the vast majority of cases. The saline is absorbed into the body without any harmful effects. Although having a ruptured saline implant is certainly an inconvenience, it is not a medical emergency to have it replaced. It certainly can be considered an urgent matter, because no woman wants to walk around with sever asymmetry that can be noticed. Another reason to proceed relatively quickly in replacing the implant is that the space around the implant tends to contract with time.
The longer the implant has been deflated, the more likely that a more extensive surgery will be needed to release the capsule that has shrunk around the implant. Having said that, we recently had a patient in our Santa Rosa plastic surgery office who waited an entire year before having her deflated implant replaced. She was "too busy" with life, work and kids to attend to herself. When we finally replaced her implants her surgery was uneventful and she was back at works within one week.
Sooner is better than later
I agree with the answer below- tightening of the connective tissue pocket around your implant will progress with time.
While this is possible to improve at surgery, the chances of you achieving an excellent outcome and symmetry are higher if you have this managed sooner rather than later.
Having said that, there should be no risk to your health if you are unable to deal with this immediately.
Indefinitely unless they cause a problem
When a saline implant ruptures, most patients want to have it fixed "yesterday" because of the asymmetry it creates.
However, it is not technically necessary to remove the implant unless it is causing a problem.
Sometimes, the implant, round when it is inflated, develops sharp painful edges on it once it is deflated and folds. This problem is more common in women with little body fat and relatively little breast tissue. This can cause pain, obviously a reason to remove the implant.
The other thing to watch for is extrusion. This means one of the sharp edges of the implant works its way to the skin surface. Patients generally know when this is occurring because they experience pain and feel the edge of the implant coming closer to the skin. Because of the scarring it might cause, patients should not allow their implants to extrude, and have them either removed or replaced before this occurs.
Ruptured Implants Should Be Evaluated By A Plastic Surgeon As He or She Will Want to Correct the Problem
When patients have deflated saline implants the results can be very dramatic. These implants flatten rapidly and patients suddenly find themselves with significant breast asymmetry. This can create anxiety and because of this, patients are eager to have the problem corrected as soon as possible. For this reason, we don’t see a lot of women with deflated implants for prolonged periods of time.
Surgeons are also eager to correct the problem as soon as possible. They realize that with time, the implant pocket starts to shrink. This may be accompanied by creases and folds in the deflated implant, which can cause erosions through the skin.
With the passage of time, revisional surgery becomes more difficult with a greater potential for complications. When implants are replaced early, all that is necessary is a simple exchange of the old deflated implant for a new one. When the empty implant is left in place for a prolonged period, the implant pocket may need to be re-created because of shrinkage.
Although we recommend removal and replacement of a deflated implant at the earliest possible date, we realize this isn’t always possible. In theory, empty saline implants can be left in a place indefinitely. If this situation arises, it’s important to consult a board-certified plastic surgeon to discuss the pros and cons of leaving a deflated saline implant in place.
You want to replace a leaking implant ASAP
A leaking or deflated saline implant is not an emergency but it should be attended semi urgently. Once the implant fluid is absorbed by your body, not only will you have an apparent "deflation", but your body will begin to tighten the capsule around the implant making future surgical corrections more difficult. If attended to within a week or two, the implant can simply be removed and another inserted. This can be performed under local anesthesia. However, if you wait too long, you might need removal of the implant with removal or release of the constricted capsule surrounding your implant. I suggest you call your Plastic Surgeon and he/she will assist you in exchanging your implant. But, do it quick!
Saline breast implants don't leak, they rupture and deflate pretty quickly. A partially or completely deflated saline implant can be left in place for a few weeks but the pocket will shrink slowly and scar tissue can set in making the replacement a little more difficult in some patients.
It is not unreasonable or unsafe to wait a few weeks before replacement.
These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.