What Causes Breast Implants to Leak?

I am trying to decide whether to go with saline or silicone and I've read up on the differences in how each leaks and the signs of leaking but I what I was really wondering is what causes a breast implant to leak in the first place?

Doctor Answers 5

Breast implant leakage

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Breast implants may leak or rupture for a variety of reasons.  The most common reason is failure of the implant shell.  As implants age, the shell becomes softer and more worn, and over time, this may result in a break in the shell and leakage of the contents.  Other reasons would be trauma to the implant such as being involved in a severe car accident, or trauma to the implant at the time of insertion.  When a saline implant ruptures, the size may rapidly or gradually decrease as your body absorbs the leaking saline.  When a silicone gel implant ruptures, the silicone is typically contained within the scar capsule that surrounds the implant, and you may not know the implant is ruptured unless the leaked silicone causes an effect such as capsular contracture or a firm nodule from your body's response to the material.  Rupture rate is approximately 1% per year for both silicone and saline implants.

All the best,

Dr. Skourtis


Portland Plastic Surgeon

Beast implant leakage

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Both saline and silicone gel filled implants are mechanical devices that can fail (leak).  The saline filled implants have a fill valve that can leak, but the majority of leaks that I have seen in my patients come from a hole in the shell.  If a patient's implant has a fold in the shell, generally caused by capsule contracture, the shell will develop a weakness along the folded area called a fold flaw.  This can then develop a hole in the area of weakness where the saline or gel can leak.this is why we see more leaks in patients with capsule contracture, but also want the implant to move around inside the capsule so that there is not a persistent fold in the shell.

Leonard T. Yu, MD
Maui Plastic Surgeon

Implant leakage

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Implant leakage is  usually just a result of wear and tear of any product over time.  Today's implants are quite durable and last longer than those used 20 or 30 years ago.  How long an implant will last is impossible to predict although the risk increases over time.  One of the benefits of saline over silicone is that if you do have a leakage, you will know it right away because the implant size will be reduced noticeably.  Detecting a leaking silicone gel implant often requires an MRI which may not  be covered by insurance.  If peace of mind regarding leakage is important to you, you  may be better off  with saline.

Ronald J. Edelson, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

What causes breast implants to leak?

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Thank you for your question.  Breast implants may leak for a variety of reasons including trauma to the breast or surgical trauma to the implant during surgery.  The implant shell may also fail if it is repeated folded in the same area.  This problem is commonly associated with capsular contracture around the implant. The important thing to remember about all of this is that the incidence of rupture is very low.  A recent FDA update (June 2011) on breast implant failure showed rupture rates ranging from 0.2% to 2.8%. 

Donald M. Brown, MD (retired)
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon

Breast Augmentation and Implant Leakage

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One of the most common causes of implant leakage is due to capsular contracture (distortion of the implant when the capsule of scar tissue that forms naturally around all implants begins to harden and "contract"). However, there are several other factors that could weaken the integrity of the implant. Over-filling the implant, trauma of any sort to the breast, a faulty implant before insertion, or if the valve becomes damaged or unplugged are a few scenarios. Since breast implants experience considerable pressure and move with your body movements for years on end, it is typical that most patients will require implant change every 10-15 years.




Dr. Ken Dickie

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.