Dear J. Gray:
Thanks for your question. A breast augmentation video can be viewed by clicking "more" below. I have done many breast augmentations and I like to ask each patient how they are doing at each visit. I encourage them to share any concerns and problems, so I think I have heard just about everything that can happen. I have had several patients report noises or feeling odd sensations from their breast implants from traveling to high altitudes or flying.
Most commonly it is a squeak or gurgling sensation when moving the arm across the chest or upwards. Usually, only the patient can hear or feel it, but sometimes I can hear it too. When it does occur, it is more common in the first few months after surgery and often resolves at a year.
I have one patient who continues to have gurgling 4 years after her surgery. I only occurs when at high altitude, and resolves when she returns to the bay area. Other than the minor annoyance, it does not cause her problems, and she is happy with the improvement in her appearance.
The sensation is likely caused by swelling. A small amount of fluid may accumulate around the implant, and cause the implant to vibrate when is slides in its pocket. It is similar to rubbing your finger around a crystal glass. The good news is, it does not seem to cause any long term problems. It also means your capsule remains at least a little bigger than your implant, and that should keep your result softer.
Not common to have this with silicone
Regardless of altitude it is not common to find gurgling and swishing feeling with silicone implants as the viscosity of these are similar to tissue. Perhaps you should see your surgeon for reassurance.
Abnormal Breast Implant Sounds
It's not unusual for patients to have unusual sensations in their breasts following breast augmentation surgery. In many cases, this is related to residual air and fluid that's present within the breast implant pocket. Under these circumstances, movement of the implant within the pocket can cause the sensation of squeaking, gurgling , swishing and bubbling.
The sensation tends to improve as fluid and air resorb. In addition, formation of a capsule around the implant also helps to minimize this phenomena. In the majority of cases, resolution occurs in one to two weeks.
It's possible that re-accumulation of fluid within the breast implant pocket might result in a return of these symptoms. This might occur with exercise and elevated altitude, but I've not seen this occur in my practice.
If you're concerned about this phenomena, it's important to have a discussion with your plastic surgeon. Your surgeon should be able to alleviate your anxiety regarding this issue.
Gurgling and squishing after breast augmentation
It is very common after breast augmentation surgery to temporarily have a gurgling or squishing sound coming from your breasts. This is a result of having some fluid between the implant and the capsule. If you move your arm and the implant shifts slightly to one side, the fluid has to go in the opposite direction which is what causes the sound or sensation of fluid moving. The fluid generally goes away with time. Some patients will also experience this with exercise and high altitudes. In my experience, it usually completely goes away.
Swishing sensation with silicone implants
Lake Tahoe is only about 6000 ft elevation. The atmospheric pressure difference should not be that noticeable, and isn't even as much as you'd experience on a commercial flight. What you're experiencing is unlikely to be related to the altitude. The density of gel implants is also not that different from the surrounding tissue. If you're concerned about it, you should speak to your surgeon
Implants ok at high altitude
This is a very interesting question but in 20 years of practice I haven't heard of anything like that. I do have a large number of implant patients who are flight attendants or skiers, and there doesn't seem to be a problem with altitude or air pressure change.