What is the Body's Reaction to a Leaking Silicone Implant?

Fever? Swollen glands?

Doctor Answers 12

Silicone implant rupture and body reaction

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The body's reaction to the ruptured silicone impland is effected by several factors including type of silicone, length of time exposure has occuirred, amount of silicone, etc. Initially inflammation occurs, followed by a foreign body reaction and slow migration through the tissues, Fever can occur but is rare.

Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 86 reviews

What is the Body's Reaction to a leaking Silicone Gel Breast Implant?

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Regarding: "What is the Body's Reaction to a Leaking Silicone Implant?
Fever? Swollen glands

No medical device or implant in the history of this country and in the history of Medicine has been more extensively scrutinized more than breast implants, especially silicone filled breast implants. They have been more closely studied than heart valves, pacemakers, artificial joints or blood vessels, shunts etc. The overwhelming consensus has been that silicone ( a polymer of Silicon and Oxygen Si-O2-Si-O2 similar to glass) is inert. By itself, it does NOT cause fevers, autoimmune responses, cancer or swollen lymph nodes.

When silicone gel leaks out of the silicone breast shell it may cause vague, if any symptoms, and may cause an increased scarring around the implant but this is not always the case. In many cases, the only way to actually diagnose a leaking silicone gel implant is with a MRI scan.

When the body reacts with fever, chills and other symptom,s you may have a secondary infection of the implant which is causing the symptoms.

Dr. Peter Aldea

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

Signs/Symptoms of Leaking Silicone Gel

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Silicone gel implants have been extensively studied. The synopsis of the data indicate that leaked silicone gel does not cause systemic disease reactions (ie. does not cause lupus, autoimmune diseases, cancer, etc.). What is less clear is the impact upon local tissue. Silicone gel ruptures have been reported to instigate foreign body reactions such as granulomas in breast tissue and effusions within the capsule, however this may be due to the trace elements within the silicone gel itself. Also, the published reports of these reactions typically involve earlier generations of silicone gel implants which contained a less-cohesive, lower viscosity gel. This gel was capable of migrating through the capsule more easily. Today's cohesive gel implants contain gel that is much less likely to migrate. In essence, if a person is experiencing redness, swelling, or pain, the concern is more likely for an infection or a capsular contracture than from a leakage of silicone gel.

David Bogue, MD
Boca Raton Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

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Leaking silicone implant

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Really, there should be no systemic reaction to a leaking silicone implant. This has been studied extensively. However, I have seen more scar tissue around ruptured implants as the body walls it away and contains the leak. This can present as firmness (capsular contracture) and pain in more severe cases with breast contour distortion.

Body's Reaction to a Leaking Silicone Implant

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Interesting question! Medically it has been scientifically proven that silicone causes no medical symptoms or signs. In real life there are always exceptions, fevers, chills, swelling, infections, etc. So please discuss these issues in person with boarded plastic surgeons. 

Silicone implant leakage

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Silicone is an inert substance. The body should not  "react: to it.  This has been study extensively with implants. 

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

What a leaking silicone gel implant can feel like

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Silicone gel implants are safe and well studied, however over time all implants can wear and the there can be flaws or holes in the implant shell which contains the silicone. The result is referred to as an intracapsular leak as the gel gets on the outside of the implant, though stays within the capsule which naturally forms around the implant. An intracapsular leak can be 'silent' for many years, hence the need for MRI studies to assist in detecting a leak. Over time however, the gel in contact with the capsule may cause drawing pain or tenderness in the breast, and the irritation in the capsule will lead to calcifications and capsule contracture where the implant rounds up and becomes firm or misshaped. A leaking implant will not produce fever, swollen glands, allergic reaction, or any recognized illness.

Best of luck,


Peter E. Johnson, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 44 reviews

What is the body's reaction to a leaking silicone implant?

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Thanks for the question. 

This seems to remain a source of a lot of confusion out there even though the FDA has done an amazing job of protecting the public by requiring great data before they brought silicone implants back on the market.

The old generation of Dow Corning breast implants (no longer on the market) were made of a type of silicone that did not stick together well. In cases of rupture/leak, there was a greater potential for the silicone to ooze out of the implant shell like a jelly donut opening up. The new generation of "cohesive gel" implants are made of a new form of silicone that stays together even if there is significant compromise to the implant shell. It is often called a "gummy bear" implant based on the more spongy feel and the cohesiveness.

That being said, these devices still have small risks of the shell failing partly, which may allow a localized small leak to occur. The usual body reaction to this is either NO symptoms, or mild discomfort. More severe cases can lead to pain and tenderness in the breast and visible distortion from capsular contracture. However, because of "silent leak" risk, the FDA recommended that patients get MRI's every few years after silicone implants to continue to monitor and get more data back to the implant companies to fulfill long-term follow-up with the FDA on an ongoing basis. This is for general public safety and so far, in the last 10 years since these implants were brought onto the market, there has not been any kind of epidemic of problems with leaking implants. The leak rate remains in the low single-digit percentages over the lifetime of a patient according to our best recent data.

Importantly, the FDA's studies did not show any correlation between silicone implants (leaking or intact) and the development of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, or other diseases people were concerned about. In the rest of the world, where silicone implants were never taken off the market, there were likewise no population studies showing major disease risks from the leakage possibility.

It is possible a leaking implant could allow some silicone particles to get into the lymphatic system and travel to lymph nodes, which could swell them. However, this again is a scenario that was far more likely with the old generation implants and highly unlikely with the cohesive gel generation.

Tim Sayed, MD, MBA, FACS
Newport Beach Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

Silicone Rupture Needs MRI Scan

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If you think you have a rupture or another complication, the first thing you should do is see your doctor and have them examine you.

A silicone rupture for the most part is not detectable clinically to the eye; you would need an MRI to detect one.

If there is a rupture, the silicone, by itself, should not create adverse symptoms like fevers, autoimmune responses, or swollen lymph nodes. This has been studied extensively for safety reasons.

I hope that answers your question on ruptured silicone implants. It’s great that you’re doing this research. I always say that the best patients are informed patients.

You might also want to research your options for breast implants. Choosing the right implant is the number one concern among women considering breast augmentation. Did you know, there’s actually a way to select a implant shape, size, and profile that is perfect for you?

A term that I use with my patients for the perfect implant is the “Pony Implant”.

So what do I mean by “perfect”? Well, a Pony Implant has three qualities to it. First, the implant meets your beauty goals. For example, you want to your breasts to look fuller while still appearing natural.

Second, when you chose your Pony Implant, you walk out of your consultation 100% confident that you’ve chosen the right shape and size for you. In other words, you won’t be second guessing your decision, and you won’t be afraid of having gone too big or too small.

And third, after your procedure, you are thrilled with your results, and say, "I’m so happy. This is exactly what I wanted!"

That’s the Pony Implant. And the great news is that there is a simple process to go about finding yours.

This issue of selecting the right implant is so important when it comes to patient satisfaction or dissatisfaction that, again, I really encourage you to learn more about it.

Thank you for reading and best of luck on your journey!

William Rahal, MD
Beverly Hills Physician
5.0 out of 5 stars 73 reviews

Symptoms your Body May Feel from a Ruptured Silicone Implant

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From what we know, silicone doesn't cause problems.  All the studies in the early 1990s demonstrated that silicone did not cause any disease.  However, if the implant is leaking it should be replaced as it could spread to other areas and may cause lumps in other areas.  Unfortunately, the study could not relate any systemic diseases such as any autoimmune diseases to silicone.

Genevieve MacDonald, MD
Los Angeles 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.