Breast Implants: Built to Take a Hit

Anonymous_1 on 4 Mar 2011 at 12:00am

Just how tough are breast implants?  

In a classic don’t-try-this-at-home experiment, Orange County plastic surgeon Dr. Sanjay Grover dropped both a saline and silicone-gel implant off a seven-story building to demonstrate the difference. The silicone survived; the saline, not so much.

[Then again, did we mention he dropped the implants from a seven-story building?]

Granted, this is not typical wear & tear, but it addresses – in a cheeky way – patient concern over implant leaks. Here are some of the more unusual questions we’re hearing on RealSelf about the durability of implants, with answers from board-certified physicians. Note: Those concerned about a leak should always consult with their surgeon.

  • Can implants stand up to a paintball? “I recently was stuck in the left breast with a paintball. The same breast…is experiencing a rash around the nipple. The breast appears the same size. Is there a chance of a slight leak in the saline implant due to the impact of the paintball?” 

    Says Andrew P. Trussler, Dallas Plastic Surgeon, the answer is likely no. “Sounds like you got a one in a million shot! Saline implants would have deflated over the next 12 hours after being shot, so you are likely good.” He cautions, “Silicone implant rupture can go undetected, and may require further imaging studies if there are issues on the paintball injury side.”
  • …a car accident? “I had a breast augmentation…last year. Everything looked great until after a car accident recently…my right breast has dropped. I have no pain in the breast, and it is very soft. My left breast has not changed at all.”

    Replies Kenneth R. Francis, New York plastic surgeon, “Seven or eight months out from surgery is an unusual time for one implant to suddenly drop. Usually, most of the implant settling has occurred by six months…You don't mention whether you received any trauma to your breast in the accident. An impact strong enough to damage an implant would likely cause you pain and bruising in the breast. I suggest that you return to your surgeon for a full evaluation and advice as to how to correct the asymmetry in your breasts.”
  • …sleeping positions?I am a stomach sleeper. My breast seems to be getting smaller over time by their look and bra size. Also over time, the rippling is becoming more noticeable. Could sleeping on my stomach cause a slow leak that only happens every night?”

    Santa Rosa plastic surgeon Francisco Canales says, “The position you sleep in does not affect the integrity of the implant. A change in apparent volume may be due to any number of factors like thinning of your own breast tissue over time, more drooping, an additional pregnancy or change in weight. Having said that, I have seen the very rare saline implants…leak through the valve with certain arm movements, as tissue has gotten trapped between the pig-tail and the valve itself. Best to always check with your doctor.”
  • will it explode? “My boyfriend was leaning over me, over my breast when we both heard a loud pop. Subsequently the breast is softer and has more movement. I am feeling twinges of muscular pain in the area around the breast and my back and the spot where the pop came from…is it possible for silicone implants to explode this way?”

    John Whitt, Louisville plastic surgeon
    , says, “The "pop" which you heard is most likely due to a capsulotomy, which is a tearing of the capsule which forms around your implant, especially since you noted that the breast was softer following this observation.  [An] MRI will probably determine if the implant itself is intact, but this test is not 100% accurate.”

So what’s a safe rule of thumb when it comes to implants? Notes Dr. Sutton Graham, Greenville plastic surgeon, leakage should be treated by the removal, and potential replacement of, implants.  

Dr. Graham explains, “There are no complications from leaking saline. It is filled with the same fluid you receive when having an IV for dehydration or medical procedure. You would normally be able to see an obvious difference in implant size and often feel the deflated empty implant.”  

With silicone, he notes, “Gel leakage within the natural scar capsule appears to only cause increased chance of capsular contracture (hardening) and calcium deposition. Gel leakage into surrounding tissues causes scar lumps (silicone granuloma) that may be felt as breast masses or detected on mammogram or ultrasound.”  

Sounds like a smart move.