What Are the Risks of Breast Implants?

Thinking about a breast augmentation...would like some info. about possible risks associated with breast implants and breast implant surgery. Can implants really "poison" you if they leak? Thx

Doctor Answers 27

Most Common Breast Implant Risk is Asymmetry

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Thank you for your question.

Serious complications following Breast Implants are fortunately very rare. Bleeding and Infection are very serious but occur in less than 2% of cases.

Asymmetry between the two breasts after Breast Augmentation is by far the most common risk. This may be due to pre existing asymmetry, uneven placement of Breast Implants or healing problems such as capsular contracture.

Surgical Placement problems such as "double bubble" and "snoopy deformity" are fortunately less common.

One of the most common problems is failure to do a breast lift in patients with sagging breasts.

Breast implant risks

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

To answer your question, we need to make a distinction between the implants and the surgical procedure. The implants are made of a silicone shell filled with either saline (salt water) or silicone gel. The safety profiles of the silicone gel implants have been extensively researched and the bottom line is that leakage from the silicone gel may cause local tissue reactions (hardness in the breast, pain, inflammation) they do not cause whole-body or systemic reactions.

The bigger question is: What are the risks of a breast augmentation? Surgical risks include early complications and late complications. The early risks of surgery include bleeding, infection, and wound healing problems. These complications occur in ~1-3% of patients. The late risks of surgery are capsular contracture (intense scarring around the implant), implant rupture, nipple sensory changes, and implant location changes (the implant falls more to the side). These complications are variable. For instance, capsular contracture is seen at 8-10% at 3 years whereas rupture is fairly low at 0.5-1% at 3 years. Certain factors make these risks more common such as revision operations for breast augmentation, smoking, or combining breast augmentation with other breast procedures such as a lift.

In your consultation with your board certified plastic surgeon, you should have a very frank discussion with regards to risks and the treatments performed should these complications occur. This is all part of the informed consent process. There is plenty of information available online as well at www.plasticsurgery.org, the website for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

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

Breast enlargement with implants is a very safe procedure but there are real risks.

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Augmentation mamoplasty is basically a very safe surgical procedure but there are real risks. As with any surgery there are the minimal risks of either general or sedation anesthesia, bleeding or infection.
As to the specific risks of the implants themselves there are numerous but again infrequent. Probably the most common problem is capsular contraction which results in the breast appearing and feeling hard and often high. This is reported in the literature as about 6-8% but with special attention to detail it can be a little as less than 1%. Improper position of the implants can occur with or with out capsular contraction. Some times the body doesn't make any scar and the implant or implants can settle to low or too far laterally. This can happen even with the most careful positioning by the surgeon. Saline implants can leak and result in spontaneous loss in size of the enlarged breast. Silicone gel filled implants used to have a problem with breakage or leakage. The newer cohesive gel breast implant have been designed to minimize these problems. We will have to have a little more time to see if this has resolved this problem. Visual and or palpable folds or ripples can result. These are more often seen with the saline filled implants than gel filled. Putting the saline implants under the pectoralis muscle can also minimize this problem.
All of these problems can be minimize with proper choice of implants, position of implants and proper surgical technique. They can also be corrected with subsequent revision surgery.

Carl W. "Rick" Lentz III, MD
Orlando Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Breast Implants Risks

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

The two most common surgery related risks are infection and hematoma which occur in less than 2% of the cases nationwide. Double Bouble, Capsular Contracture, Implants Bottoming Out, and Symmastia (uniboob) are risks related to the surgery but the risks of those tend to be in about 5 - 9% of cases nationwide.

Kris M. Reddy, MD, FACS
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 56 reviews

Breast augmentation postoperative risks.

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

The most frequently encountered postoperative complications of breast augmentation are hematoma (i.e. bleeding into the implant pocket requiring surgical removal), which occur in 1-3% of patients nationwide, and infection of the implant occurring in less than 1% of patients nationwide. Most all patients will experience some temporary change in breast and/or nipple sensation immediately after surgery; 15% of patients may experience permanent increases or decreases in breast sensitivity and nipple sensation. I examine all of my patients the day after surgery so that in the unlikely event there is a complication, it can be diagnosed and treated efficiently.

Jaime Perez, MD
Tampa Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

Risks of breast augmentation

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

A breast implant has risks, just like any medical procedure does.  The main points of discussion include the risk that the implant may rupture, cause capsular contracture or thickening of the tissue around the implant, and that the breast may have asymmetry. Nipple sensation loss is a low risk.  

There are other less likely risks that would be appropriate to discuss before surgery with your surgeon. 

Raffy Karamanoukian, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 95 reviews

Risks of Breast Augmentation

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Breast augmentation is a surgical procedure and therefore there are risks involved.  Some of these risks are present for any surgical procedure such as bleeding (hematoma), infection, poor scarring, etc.  Bleeding rates specifically related to breast augmentation is ~ 1-2% and infection rates are also ~ 1-2%.  Those are the major early risks after surgery.  Late risks (>3-6 months) include:

1) Capsular contracture - Formation of a capsule is a normal response by the body to an implant.  Capsular contracture is when that capsule becomes very tight and causes hardening of the implant and pain in the breast.

2) Implant rupture - When saline implants rupture, the body absorbs the saline (salt water) and the implant usually completely deflates.  When silicone implants rupture, there is often minimal change in the shape of the implant for some time.  The newer generation of implants have much more viscous silicone so it does not leak into the body.  Also, there is no evidence that silicone will "poison" a patient. 

3) Asymmetry

4) Dissatisfaction with size

These risks are the most worrisome ones but not the entire list.  Despite this potential for risks, most patients do very well and the majority of them would recommend the procedure to someone else or do it again.

Naveen Setty, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 78 reviews

Get information about the risks of breast augmentation.

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Get information about the risks of breast augmentation from a reputable source.  There are hundreds of surgeons on this forum that have websites that should go over the main risks of breast augmentation.

Be careful where you get your information.  Your question about being "poisoned" if they leak makes me think that you have received incorrect information somewhere.  The American Society of Plastic Surgery also has a patient forum which can be helpful (plasticsurgery.org)

Reviewing all of the risks of breast augmentation is too difficult in such a brief forum

Richard H. Fryer, MD
Salt Lake City Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 299 reviews

Risks of breast augmentation

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Breast implants have a long track record of being safe. It is rare but always possible to have a complication. The patient satisfaction rate with implants remains high—at 90 pecent plus. So the bottom line is that there is currently nothing to say that breast implants are not safe. A board certified plastic surgeon will be able to further discuss any questions or concerns you have about implants.

Deason Dunagan, MD
Huntsville Plastic Surgeon

Risks of breast augmentation

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Breast augmentation is the most popular cosmetic surgery in America because they can provide a consistent way to change the shape and size of your breasts.

Like all cosmetic surgery, breast augmentation does have risks. These risks include but are not limited to infection, hematoma, seroma, wound healing difficulties, asymmetry, capsular contracture, and need for additional surgery. To help minimize your risks, it is essential that you work with a board-certified plastic surgeon who has a great deal of experience in breast augmentation and breast lift surgery. They will be able to assess your chest and breast tissue and help you select the options that will optimize your result.

To learn more about breast augmentation, see photos, and help you decide which one is best for you, please visit us at the link below:

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.