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 (41)

Signs of leaking breast implants

+1
Thank you for your question. If you have saline implant, it is very easy to tell since a rupture causes the saline to leak out and the body simply reabsorbs the "salt water". In addition the appearance of the breast rapidly decreases in size since the water is absorbed very quickly.
Silicone implants are a little more difficult to tell if they have ruptured. A ruptured silicone implant may not cause a misshapen appearance to the breast or hard lumps since the gel is cohesive and should not "leak" out. However, I have seen ruptured implants cause a "capsular contracture" which can cause the hardness you are speaking about. The best way to diagnose a ruptured implant is with an MRI. The FDA recommends an MRI every 2-3 years after a breast augmentation. However, most women do not opt to have MRIs since they are an "out-of-pocket" expense. Since you ARE having symptoms, I would recommend visiting your plastic surgeon to make a decision about ordering an MRI.


Dallas Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

Signs of Leak

+1
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 13 reviews

Are breast implants leaking?

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Thank you for your question. Some of the symptoms you have may be normal for someone who has had breast surgery. If you are over 40 your yearly mammogram may show signs of an implant rupture. Otherwise an ultrasound could show a leak or rupture but the best test would be an MRI. I would recommend visiting with a board certified plastic surgeon who could perform a proper exam and guide you in the right direction.

Mark Deutsch, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

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Hard lump in the breast

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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 5 reviews

Firmness in breast

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 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.

Connie Hiers, MD
San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

Possible capsular contracture

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Please see your surgeon as soon as you can. A breast implant that feels firmer than usual and soreness could be indication of capsular contracture. 

Jerome Edelstein, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 53 reviews

Breast Implant Changes

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Newer breast implants have improved shells with leak rates as low as 3.5-7% at 15 years. If a saline implant leaks it deflates, if a gel implant leaks it changes shape or has less pressure than before and an MRI is needed to evaluate it. The more common problem with implants is capsular contracture which occurred in 15% of women in the FDA study.  This is scar tissue around the implant which contracts and distorts the shape or causes pain. Texturing of the implant can reduce capsular contracture, but had twice as high a leak rate. It is best to be evaluated by your plastic surgeon.

Signs of Leaking Breast Implants

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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 3 reviews

Leaking breast implants?

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You could have capsular contracture with or without leaking implants.   The only way to tell for sure is to be examined by your plastic surgeon who may order imaging studies such as a mammogram or MRI to evaluate what is going on.

Best of luck,

Dr. Michelle Spring

Michelle Spring, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Leaking Breast Implants

+1
Make an appointment to see your plastic surgeon. My patients have post -operative appointments scheduled regularly following surgery with the final schedule appointment at 12 months. However, if a patient has a concern beyond that time I would want to know about it. Contact your plastic surgeon.

Michael Law, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

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.