My Doctor Thinks my Implant is Infected with Staph. How Can Staph Get Inside an Implant?

Submuscular breast augmentation 10yrs ago, bottomed out, had 2nd surgery w/in 6mths(implants placed over muscle). 3yrs ago contracted internal staph infection(right breast), treated w/ antibiotics & cleared up. 8mths ago had surgery(same breast), removed papilloma. 1mth ago got 2nd staph infection(same breast), taking antibiotics, MRI & appt with disease specialist scheduled. Dr thinks implant is infected. How can staph get into a saline implant thru the silicone sack w/no apparent saline leak?

Doctor Answers 15

Biofilm and Breast Implants

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Our skin is always colonized with some type of staph bacteria and often women's breast ducts are also colonized .  Staphyloccus can be very difficult to irradicate especially in the presence of a foreign body such as an implant.  Small amounts of the bacteria secrete a gelatinous material that is called a biofilm.  This biofilm hides the bacteria  and makes it difficult for antibioptics or the body's own protective mechanisms to fight the infection.  Implant removal and capsule removal improve the chance of clearing the resistant bacteria.Most women find it difficult to wait for replacement of their implants, but a time interval will improve the liklihood of a good outcome.

Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 117 reviews

Infection and implants

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If you have an infection around the implant, it more than likely has to be removed.  Without an exam I can not be sure.

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

How an breast implant gets infected

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Breast implants are made of a silicone rubber shell and is filled with either silicone gel or saline solution.  It is a foreign material placed into the body and due to that fact alone, is prone to infection over living tissues.  In addition, bacteria are everywhere, even with use of sterile technique in the operating room, we can only hope to decrease the number of bacteria that come in contact with implants as we place them into the body, and even with the best technique some bacteria can contaminate the implants.  We rely on antibiotics and your immune system to rid the area of the few bacteria that get in.  Even if we are able to prevent all bacteria from contaminating the implant, bacteria can still get to the implant through the blood stream, which is more likely during future procedures such as invasive dental surgery or procedures that cause our systems to be exposed to large bacterial loads.  Despite all the potential perils of bacteria in our environment, implant infection is a relatively rare complication.  Most of the time, it's just one of those things that just happens despite doing everything right.  Antibiotics for a period of time may be able to correct the problem, but unfortunately, removal of the implant for a period of time is often necessary to achieve complete clearance of the infection.  This is one of the reasons whey in a perfect world, everyone would be a candidate for fat grafting to the breast instead of implants.  Fat is living tissue and is not prone to infection in the same way.

Leif Rogers, MD, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Staph infection after breast augmentation

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I am so sorry to hear about your complication. The staph infection is more likely in the 'pocket' that your PS made when the implant was placed and not IN the implant. I am glad you are seeing an infectious disease specialist. I would recommend removing the implant altogether until the infection has been irradicated completely. Best of luck to you.


Dr. H 

Gary M. Horndeski, MD
Texas Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 230 reviews

Staph infection

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You seem to imply that the infection is 'within' the implant.  If so then you definitely need to provide more information.  Are you symptomatic?

Scott E. Newman, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

Breast implant infection has come back

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Infections with breast implants are not caused by bacteria inside the implant. Bacteria will set up in the breast capsule, or on the outside surface of the implant. The surface of the implant can from a place for the bacteria to 'hide' and antibiotics are not always able to fight off the infection, with a recurrence after the antibiotics are stopped. If antibiotics don't clear things up, infections rapidly respond when the implants are removed.

Best of luck,


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

Recurrent capsule contractures and infections

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This has been a long and difficult road for you.  It is very difficult for women to give up their breasts implants once they have them but you are unlikely to ever have a good result with breast implants.  You may be at the point where there is nothing else to offer that would help except for removing the implants and capsule.  You may or may not be a candidate for external breast expansion and fat grafting in the future but this is possibly something you could consider if the infection can be eradicated.  Dr. Khouri in Miami has done excellent research on this procedure.  Best wishes.

Louise Ferland, MD
Richmond Plastic Surgeon

Staph Infection around Breast Implant

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It's not your implant that it is infected, its the capsule surrounding the implant.  There is recent evidence to suggest that biofilms may play a role in capsular contractures.  These are colonies of bacteria that form a protective layer over themselves which makes them particularly resistant to antiobiotics. It is extremely difficult to completely cure an infection with an implant in place.  The implant needs to be removed along with the capsule. If it is only one breast that is infected you really only have to take that one out, but  you might want to take them both out for the sake of symmetry.  In 4-6 months a new implant(s) can be put back in.  It is good that you are going to see an infectious disease specialist as he will be able to oversee the treatment of the infection.  Since you have a history of capsular contracture you might want to consider a submuscular placement next time.  Good Luck.

Lori H. Saltz, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Difficult Problem.

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The inside of the implant doesnt get infected but the pocket around the implant.  You have had significant issues with your implants and multiple surgeries, not to mention the expense.  Some times it is best to take out the implants and let all the infection clear up and then replace them.   I t is very difficult to clear an infection with a foreign body in human tissue.  If you begin to have fevers and tendernous this is the saftest choice.  good luck

Miguel Delgado, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

Infection after breast augmentation

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Sorry to hear that you have an infection after your surgery.  Your recurrent infection is most likely due to colonization of bacteria around your implant/capsule.  Our body is colonized with bacteria on our skin.  During the surgery, bacteria on our skin (mostly Staph) might have gone into your implant/implant pocket.  If you continue to have recurrence or infection does not clear up with antibiotics, you may need to get the implant out for awhile.  Good luck to you.

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.