Do Leaking Silicone Implants Cause Problems in Your Joints?

My silicone implants are leeking and I'm having a lot of problems with my joints (knees, shoulders, ankles, hips). I was told it was from the silicone going thru my body.

Doctor Answers (22)

Silicone appears safe but there are things you should know.

+4

Good question June -

Implants were first introduced in 1962 and there have been over 250 types have been created. The Food and Drug Administration has been regulating medical devices in 1976. You are probably aware of the media spectacle regarding implants in the 1980’s when allegations that silicone gel implants could be linked to cancer, autoimmune and connective tissue disorders (such as lupus). Numerous lawsuits were filed and millions of dollars were paid to settle the resultant lawsuits.

Admist these problems, the FDA requested more stringent safety data. There was a lack of this safety data and the FDA banned the general use of gel implants for augmentation, with the exception of women who required breast reconstruction subsequent to breast cancer and mastectomy.

Fourteen years after the ban, in 2006, studies by the Mentor company in which 1007 women were followed for 3 years (with MRI results 1 and 2 years after implantation) and similar studies by Allergan (601 women were followed for 4 years) were deemed adequate to demonstrate safety and the FDA gave a qualified approval for silicone gel implant use. There were several other studies which also looked at the overall safety of silicone in the body.

Interestingly several studies discovered that the highest level of silicone exposure and silicone within the body came from diabetics. Silicone coated needles used for insulin injection over years likely create significantly higher silicone concentrations than implants.

Silicone is likely safe but here are things you should know.

  • The implants will not last forever. They are devices that may need to be replaced.
  • If the implants are removed the breasts will not return to their original shape and may look worse than before. (In other words scars and the changes from implant placement are permanent.)
  • When the implants are replaced there is a higher risk of complications compared to the first time.
  • Mammograms may be more difficult to read and may require additional views or other modalities (CT or MRI).
  • There are on-going studies regarding newer silicone implants. Mentor and Allergan are providing on-going follow-up of the initial women who participated in the core studies for 10 years and also provide a separate 10 year post-approval study on approximately 40,000 silicone implant patients and a control group of women with saline implants.
  • Silicone implants are difficult to detect rupture or leaks and MRI exams starting 3 years after implantation and every 2 years thereafter are recommended for surveillance.

As always, you should discuss these issues with a board certified plastic surgeon. Implants that are leaking should be removed however based on the science we have they are not likely contributing to your symptoms.

I hope this helps.


San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 27 reviews

Please see your plastic surgeon to discuss the removal of your breast implants.

+2

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine concluded that silicone implants do not cause any major health problems. Research and reports from the last decade have shown that silicone gel-filled implants do not pose additional risks to women’s short-term or long-term health. Silicone implants are approved by the FDA and are considered safe.

Breast implants, like most medical devices, are not meant to last a lifetime. When a leak is documented, it is best to remove the affected implants with or without replacements. I would advise you to make an appointment, preferably with your original plastic surgeon, to discuss various surgical options. If he/she is not available, then I would see a board certified plastic surgeon with extensive experience in breast surgery and silicone gel implants.

I do not doubt that your symptoms are real. It would be wise to have an extensive medical work up performed to look for the cause(s) of your musculoskeletal symptoms and complaints. The actual list is long, so an open mind is crucial. Although the preponderance of evidence states that silicone implants will not cause or induce any medical disorders, I have had one or two patients over my 23 year career where removal of their implants seem to improve their symptoms. This could have been due to ‘placebo’ effect.

Thanks for your question. I hope this helps!

Stephen A. Goldstein, MD
Englewood Plastic Surgeon

Your joint problems are most likely not from silicone

+2

Many studies have confirmed that silicone implants , whether leaking or intact, do not cause rheumatologic problems. Consequently, your problems are most likely from some condition that a Rheumatologist (an arthritis doctor) should evaluate. In addition, you would be wise to get your implants exchanged as soon as is practical for you.

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

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Breast implants have been found to be safe by the FDA

+2

June,

Depending on how old your silicone breast implants are, they are either the cohesive gel implants (currently approved by the FDA) or the previous generation of implants. The older (2nd generation) implants were made with a thinner shell and the silicone gel inside was more liquid. These implants were know to leak more readily but retrospective studies have not supported the thought that the silicone migrates throuout your body. The current 3rd generation implants have been exhaustively studied by the FDA and were released for use in Nov 2006. The gel in these implants is thicker and the shells are thicjer and more durable as well. A fairly comprehensive compliation of iformation about the safety of silicone breast implants can be found at www.breastimplantsafety.org.

If in fact your implants have been found to not be intact by MRI or mammogram, you should consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon to discuss your options for treatment.

Michael C. Edwards, MD, FACS

Michael C. Edwards, MD, FACS
Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

No link with any autoimmune or connective tissue disorder

+1

You did not mention why you believe that your implant is leaking.  With the new form of breast implants produced after 2009 there is little chance of the implant gel material migrating since the gel is more cohesive than it was prior to this time.  Therefore it may be difficult to tell if it is ruptured since the implant tends to keep its original shape. The problem is non an emergency.  You would need some type of diagnostic study to determine if it was actually ruptured such as a  mammogram, MRI or ultrasound.  There has been shown in numerous studies no link between silicone gel implant and any autoimmune or connective tissue disorder. 

Jeffrey Zwiren, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Leaking Silicone implants and joint pain

+1

The anwers have said most of what needs to be said. There is no evidence that silicone implant causes any form of autoimmune diseases including joint pain. Teh FDA has established this as have 14 years of in depth study.

Raj S. Ambay, MD
Tampa Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 15 reviews

Silicone is an Inert Substance

+1

To date, silicone has not been proven to cause any systemic illness. There were reports of collagen vascular disorders being caused by silicone and it took 20 years to disprove those false allegation. Currently, there are reports in Europe about a certain form of lymphoma but this too has not been proven. There are ongoing investigations to study the association between silicone and lymphoma Europe but no direct correlation has been found. In regards to joint disorders, there has not been any proof of an association or correlation. If your implants are leaking, have them removed.

Jacob Freiman, MD, FACS
Miami Beach Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 108 reviews

Leaking implants and joint pain

+1

I think that there are two questions here that certainly need to be answered. The first is whether or not you had a test determine if your implant is indeed leaking. If a silicone implant is leaking, all surgeons as well as the FDA agree that it should be either removed or removed and replaced. Secondly, the question of the effect of joint pain and silicone should be answered. In the early 1990s claims are made that the relationship between silicone and joint pain and arthritis. This led to a large lawsuit and settlement which essentially turned out to be not related. According to the FDA report in 2006, has no correlation with your joint pain and whether or not you have a leaking implant.  Just remember to follow up on the possibility of your implant which may be leaking.

John E. Sherman, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

Silicone in my joints

+1

Although there may be silicone molecules in your joint, there is no evidence that silicone is bad on your joints.

Arian Mowlavi, MD
Laguna Beach Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Leaking silicone implants and joint pain

+1

There is no evidence that silicone can cause any health problems

Silicone implants have been studied extensively and in 2006 the FDA came back and stated there is no evidence that silicone implants can cause any health problems.The institute if science an independent organization came to the same conclusion

We are exposed to silicon in our daily life, many devices ate covered with silicone,needles lubricated with silicone, IV tubing, even in canned food.

Most Rheumatologist will tell you there is no relationship.

Samir Shureih, MD
Baltimore 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.