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 72

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. 

Philadelphia Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 59 reviews

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.

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
4.7 out of 5 stars 42 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.

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
4.8 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Implant leakage

With silicone implants, deflation or leakage, although rare, would be slow.  You could also have signs of capsular contracture and this should be evaluated by your plastic surgeon; it is also important to rule out any other etiology.  Saline implants, if leaking, would deflate or flatten out. You would not have the symptoms you are describing from a saline leak. 

Signs of Leaking Breast Implants

If you have saline implants, it is usually easier to tell because your breast will get smaller. The saline from the leaking implant will absorb into your body and the breast will look deflated. If you have silicone implants, it is much harder to tell if one is leaking. The symptoms of a hard lump or a misshapen appearance to the breast can be signs of a leak in silicone implants. The newer silicone implants will not leak extensively out of the pocket, but your body may wall it off and so it may feel like a hard lump. You should get an MRI done as soon as possible to assess the implants and see your surgeon for an exam. 

Stanley Castor, MD
Tampa Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 105 reviews

What happens when my implants leak?

Great question - there are two scenarios to consider - silicone gel implants and also saline implants.  When saline implants leak you will go to bed with two equal breasts and wake up with one much smaller than the other...  But - if you have silicone gel implants it will not be clear from either appearance or a physical exam when and if the implant leaks...  the only way to know that an implant (gel) is leaking is by getting a breast MRI- and do not worry a leaking gel implant is both rare and not harmful to your health.

That being said your concerns and symptoms are somewhat unusual and definitely worth getting checked out.  Best of luck.

Capsule Possible

It's possible that there is a capsule forming, which is scar tissue around the breast implant. It's also possible that the implants are ruptured. Best to go in for an exam and ultrasound to evaluate the implants. Pain can be a sign of capsular contracture as well...

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.