Signs of Leaking Breast Implants

I've had my breast implants for about 4 years.  When I lie down my implants sometimes feel like a misshapen, hard lump.  I can also feel the implants and some soreness. Are these signs my breast implants are leaking?  How can I tell?

Doctor Answers 79

Depends on the implant

These do not sound like signs of leaking from a saline implant.  However, they could be associated with leaking from a silicone implant.  You need to visit with a board certified plastic surgeon, and possibly get an MRI if you have silicone implants.  Either way, it is always best to have someone examine you if you are having problems.

San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 135 reviews

Soreness and lumps should always be addressed

By now, I hope your problem is resolved and that you went to see your doctor when you identified that you had a problem. In general, silicone gel filled implants need an MRI X-ray to determine if they are leaking. With saline implants, you'll know because your breasts will return to their original size and you won't fill out your clothes symmetrically. 

Ted Eisenberg, DO, FACOS
Philadelphia Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 78 reviews

Signs of Leak

If you have saline breast implants, it's easy to tell if they are leaking.  They deflate quickly and the body harmlessly absorbs the saline so that breast looks deflated and significantly smaller then the side that is not deflated.  This usually happens over a period of a few days.

If you have silicone based implants then it is a litter harder to tell.  The new implants don't leak everywhere so they usually present as some change in the look of feel of the implant.  A breast that was completely normal for several years may begin to change in appearance or become harder or more tender.  However, because the volume remains the same, there usually isn't any obvious deflation.  The only sure way to tell is to get an ultrasound or MRI.   

If you suspect a leak then you should see a board certified plastic surgeon to determine if you need to get further testing.  If there is leak or rupture then that implant needs to be removed and exchanged for another one.

Adam Hamawy, MD
Princeton Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

Hard lump in the breast

Changes in the feel and shape of the implants can indicate a rupture or the development of a capsular contracture.  Saline implants will deflate if ruptured but it is often difficult to tell if a silicone implant is ruptured.  

Changes in the breast and new lumps of tenderness should be evaluated by a physician.

Michelle J. Place, MD
Danville Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Firmness in breast

 When saline implants leak, they will deflate and become smaller. The new gels may not show any signs of leakage.  If you have a hard lump, please see your family physician or plastic surgeon.  You may have some scar tissue or capsule formation occurring, or there may be another problem.  Please do not ignore the lump.

Connie Hiers, MD
San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

Signs of Leaking Breast Implants

If your implants are saline then they will decrease in size fairly quickly if they are ruptured.  Gel implants can be more difficult to evaluate for rupture.  What you describe is not a typical story for rupture but closer to capsular contracture.  They best evaluation for rupture for gel implants is an MRI.  Visit your plastic surgeon to discuss the problem and be evaluated.

Susan D. Vasko, MD, FACS
Columbus Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 15 reviews

Implant problems

Thank you for your question.  It is difficult to say without examining you what exactly is happening.  The hardness and discomfort you are feeling may be due to capsular contracture, which can be a difficult problem and is often managed surgically if symptomatic.  Leaking saline implants will ultimately end in the deflation of the implant, which will be quite obvious; leaking or ruptured silicone implants are far more difficult to detect clinically, and usually require an MRI to diagnose.  I would recommend seeing your surgeon for and in-person examination to determine the appropriate course of action.

Joshua D. Zuckerman, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

A mishapen hard lump may be a sign of a leaking implant, or a capsular contracture

Firmness of implants can be caused by capsular contracture, a tightening process that we don't really understand but is treatable (basically by cutting the capsule and softening the breast). Implants that have leaked may feel firm because they have folded down on themselves, like a deflated beachball. You really need to see your surgeon. In my office, we also do ultrasound scans of the implants. You are clearly not comfortable and need to be evaluated. I have attached a link to my website in case you wish to read more.

Eric Swanson, MD
Kansas City Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 56 reviews

Lumpy breast implant

If you have silicone implants, you should obtain a breast MRI to rule out rupture. If you have saline implants, you would know if you have a rupture because your breasts will have deflated. If you have a misshapen hard lump, that could be anything from a silicone leak to capsular contracture to a breast tumor. You should see a board-certified plastic surgeon to be evaluated.

The Difference Between Silicone and Saline Rupture

Regardless of the cause, 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.

Your case does not sound like a implant rupture. A saline implant rupture would result in your breasts deflating and it is fairly obvious because one breast would look much larger than the other. A silicone rupture for the most part is not detectable clinically to the eye; you would need an MRI to detect a rupture. 

It's common to be able to feel the edge of the implant in areas where there is less tissue covering them.

If you are feeling a lump in the breast tissue, you should have that examined by a doctor.

William Rahal, MD
Beverly Hills Physician
5.0 out of 5 stars 40 reviews

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.