Signs of Leaking Breast Implants

I've had my breast implants for about 4 years.  When I lie down my implants sometimes feel like a misshapen, hard lump.  I can also feel the implants and some soreness. Are these signs my breast implants are leaking?  How can I tell?

Doctor Answers 51

Firmness in breast

 When saline implants leak, they will deflate and become smaller. The new gels may not show any signs of leakage.  If you have a hard lump, please see your family physician or plastic surgeon.  You may have some scar tissue or capsule formation occurring, or there may be another problem.  Please do not ignore the lump.

San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Depends on the implant

These do not sound like signs of leaking from a saline implant.  However, they could be associated with leaking from a silicone implant.  You need to visit with a board certified plastic surgeon, and possibly get an MRI if you have silicone implants.  Either way, it is always best to have someone examine you if you are having problems.

Soreness and lumps should always be addressed

By now, I hope your problem is resolved and that you went to see your doctor when you identified that you had a problem. In general, silicone gel filled implants need an MRI X-ray to determine if they are leaking. With saline implants, you'll know because your breasts will return to their original size and you won't fill out your clothes symmetrically. 

Ted Eisenberg, DO
Philadelphia Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Signs of Leak

If you have saline breast implants, it's easy to tell if they are leaking.  They deflate quickly and the body harmlessly absorbs the saline so that breast looks deflated and significantly smaller then the side that is not deflated.  This usually happens over a period of a few days.

If you have silicone based implants then it is a litter harder to tell.  The new implants don't leak everywhere so they usually present as some change in the look of feel of the implant.  A breast that was completely normal for several years may begin to change in appearance or become harder or more tender.  However, because the volume remains the same, there usually isn't any obvious deflation.  The only sure way to tell is to get an ultrasound or MRI.   

If you suspect a leak then you should see a board certified plastic surgeon to determine if you need to get further testing.  If there is leak or rupture then that implant needs to be removed and exchanged for another one.

Adam Hamawy, MD
Princeton Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

Hard lump in the breast

Changes in the feel and shape of the implants can indicate a rupture or the development of a capsular contracture.  Saline implants will deflate if ruptured but it is often difficult to tell if a silicone implant is ruptured.  

Changes in the breast and new lumps of tenderness should be evaluated by a physician.

Michelle J. Place, MD
Danville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Signs of Leaking Breast Implants

If your implants are saline then they will decrease in size fairly quickly if they are ruptured.  Gel implants can be more difficult to evaluate for rupture.  What you describe is not a typical story for rupture but closer to capsular contracture.  They best evaluation for rupture for gel implants is an MRI.  Visit your plastic surgeon to discuss the problem and be evaluated.

Susan D. Vasko, MD, FACS
Columbus Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

You must see your doctor or plastic surgeon to confirm.

If you have saline implants, you would know if they were leaking because your breast size would deflate. If you have silicone implants, a leak can be more difficult to detect. However, the hard lump you feel may be a symptom of capsular contraction. The only way to know for sure is to see your physician or your plastic surgeon. Best of luck.

Signs of implant rupture

First off saline and silicone implants differ in how they behave once there have ruptured. Saline implants wil slowly loose water and the rippling will become increasingly more pronounced. The breast will eventually loose size and appear smaller. Finally the ruptured device will lead to a more misshaped breast. Silicone implants on the otherhand don't usually lose volume but get increasingly harder. This will compress the implant more and lead to a distortion of the breast, possibly increased discomfort and ultimately a firmer malpositioned breast. Most of the patients I see had no idea that their implants where ruptured until their mammogram had an incidental finding suggesting that one or both of the implants were ruptured.  

John Mancoll, MD
Virginia Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

Signs of Leaking Breast Implants

Signs of leaking breast implants are different with saline implants and silicone gel-filled implants.

Saline implants are filled with a balanced salt water solution, exactly the same as an IV fluid, so when the implant leaks, the fluid is absorbed by the body and the salt and water is harmlessly filtered out by the kidneys. The result is that the implant deflates and the breast becomes visibly smaller. You might feel the deflated implant as more wrinkled, sloshy, or as a lump or firm spot within your breast, but the most obvious sign is the breast getting smaller.

Silicone implant leaks are different because the silicone gel is not absorbed by the body, so the breast doesn't change in size.  Instead, you may notice a capsule contracture (hardening of the breast), a new lump, or notice a different feel to the implant.
If you notice these changes, do see your plastic surgeon for an evaluation to determine if there may be a breast implant leak.

Paul C. Zwiebel, MD
Denver Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms

Signs of leakage with saline implants typically include a diminished breast size as your body reabsorbs the leaking saline.  A ruptured silicone implant can feel firm, though it is rare to feel lumps.  Either implant can be firm or uncomfortable if you develop a capsular contracture (hardening of the scar tissue around the implant).  No matter what the potential cause of your symptoms, I recommend returning to your plastic surgeon if possible.  If it is not possible to see the surgeon that performed your procedure, I would recommend seeing your primary care physician or a different  board certified plastic surgeon.

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.