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 48

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 7 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 3 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.

Hardness can indicate capsular contracture

A feeling of hardness around the implants, especially combined with soreness, indicates a degree of capsular contracture that will most likely require surgery to correct. Although the presence of capsular contracture isn’t necessarily a sign that your breast implants have leaked, it is a sign that you should visit your plastic surgeon to ask about breast implant revision. If one or both implants have ruptured, then replacing them as soon as possible is recommended, along with removing the scar tissue capsule to repair the capsular contracture and restore a naturally soft fullness to the breasts again.

Ruptured breast implants

Your symptoms of lumpiness and soreness should not be ignored. See your plastic surgeon for an examination.

The most accurate way to diagnose a leaking or ruptured silicone breast implant is via an MRI. However, other studies, such as ultrasounds and mammograms, can also provide helpful information.

It is very difficult to determine if a silicone implant has ruptured without one of these studies, however, if you notice a change in shape or texture of your breast, hardening or flattening of your breast, pain, or other changes, you may have a ruptured breast implant. Capsular contracture can present in similar ways, so it is best for you to be evaluated in person by a board-certified plastic surgeon.

Lara Devgan, MD, MPH
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Breast implant hardness

What you are describing could potentially be a sign of capsular contracture.  All implants placed in the body form a layer of scar tissue around them known as a capsule.  Sometimes, these capsules start to grow and become thicker and squeeze the implant.  This is known as a capsular contracture and manifests clinically as an implant that feels firm or an odd breast shape.  You should see your plastic surgeon who can assess you to figure of if you have a contracture and let you know your options to treat it.

Kunaal Jindal, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 21 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.