If Ruptured, Could Silicone Memory Gel Implants Migrate Through the Body and Cause Problems?

I got silicone gel implants two months ago, the MemoryGel kind by Mentor. I am worried I wont be able to detect a leak down the road. If my silicone implants rupture, is it possible the silicone migrate at all? I know that its not common, but could it??? Could it migrate to my lungs, brain, etc? If so will I die? Silicone poisoning? Could someone scan my body to detect silicone migration? Could it all be removed? Whats the worst case scenario? Ugh freaking out please help.

Doctor Answers 5

Silicone Migration Potential and other problems.

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After 2006 Mentor and Allergan ( and more recently Sientra) implants are highly cohesive and less likely to leak even with a defect in the shell. The older implants had silicone gel like honey or molasses and though generally contained within the prosthetic capsule would occasionally migrate to the lymph nodes beneath the arm pit. Most are just followed but can be easily removed for study if needed. Although possible it is relatively rare that this would cause a later cancer problem. Both saline and silicone implants are safe and neither has shown significant increase risk for cancer. Remember the saline implant is a silicone envelope with saline inside. Silicone implants have distinct advantages over saline implants in terms of performance: they wrinkle less and conform to a more natural breast shape, and also have a softer feel that is more breast-like. However, silicone implants have gained a reputation—possibly undeserved—for being less safe than saline implants.I think you have to answer this question in two ways:
  1. First, to address the perceived silicone toxicity by the public/patients which has not been substantiated by scientific studies and would be rare if it occurred at all.
  2. Secondly you have to address if they have ever been proven to be toxic.
The first question is easy to answer: there is no known toxicity from silicone gel breast implants. It has been studied by the FDA for more than three decades to establish its safety. Silicone is the most common material used in medical devices/implants. Examples include shunts that go from the brain to the abdomen (for hydrocephalus) which are left in for a lifetime, artificial finger joints, syringes, IVs, catheters (including ones that go next to the heart), surrounding pacemakers, and even oral anti-gas tablets.
The one possible exception may by the PIP implant made in France (generally not available in the USA). Most of the concerns about the PIP implant were about the use of non-medical silicone and manufacturing problems, and do not relate to implants used in the United States by board-certified plastic surgeons. This is not to say that breast implants, like any implant, can have problems; they may have to be removed and are not meant to last a life time. Common reasons for replacement include: capsular contracture, rupture, infection, change in breast size, and pain—but not for toxicity.
To answer the perceived toxicity of Silicone by the general public—this is quite a different matter.
Breast implants have been around since the 1960s. About 15 years ago Connie Chung ran an exposé, Face to Face with Connie Chung, claiming silicone implants were responsible for different health problems. This led to lawsuits, a huge windfall for lawyers, and the subsequent ban on silicone implants for first-time breast augmentation patients went into effect. They were always available for breast reconstruction (e.g. after mastectomy) and replacement of existing silicone breasts. Also, please note that saline implants are still covered by a silicone envelope.
Soon after, a ban on silicone implant use became worldwide. This lasted for years until more than 100 clinical studies showed that breast implants aren’t related to cancer, lupus, scleroderma, other connective tissue diseases, or the host of other problems they were accused of causing.
June 1999, The Institute of Medicine released a 400-page report prepared by an independent committee of 13 scientists. They concluded that although silicone breast implants may be responsible for localized problems such as hardening or scarring of breast tissue, implants do not cause any major diseases such as depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
The Institute of Medicine is part of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation’s most prestigious scientific organization.
Eventually, a federal judge dismissed/rejected the lawsuits, declaring them junk science and ended for the most part the barrage of lawsuits. This led to the present reintroduction of silicone implants years ago and their approval by the FDA. Interestingly enough, most of the rest of the world reintroduced them many years prior to the United States.
Despite the fact that there is no known toxicity of silicone gel breast implants, the possibility of a “silent rupture,” undetectable except by MRI, has been enough to make many women opt for saline implants or wait for a better product to come along. The time will be here most likely within a year or so with the advent of the Ideal Implant, the name given to a new design saline hybrid implant. It has the natural feel of silicone and safety of saline.
Saline implants, though providing peace of mind by being perceived as safer than silicone, often do not create a result that seems as natural. Wrinkling, scalloping, a globular shape, and water balloon-like feel, and increased risk of capsular contracture have been the trade-off for peace of mind with breast implants. The Ideal Implant solves many if not all of these concerns.
The Ideal Implant is one of the major technological advances to come along in the past few decades in implant manufacture. Using a novel design with internal baffles, the saline implant is manufactured to achieve a similar feel and performance comparable to a silicone implant. Approximately 95% of both patients and their surgeons expressed satisfaction at the current two-year data point by the FDA. The Ideal Breast Implant is soon to be released in the US market, hopefully with in the year.

Implants and migration of silicone

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In general, if an implant ruptures, the gel stays within the confines of the breast capsule or jsut outside the capsule. On occasion it can make its way to the local lymph nodes.  I have yet to see reports that the silicone migrates around the body.

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

Silicone Gel Breast Implants?

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Thank you for the question.

The advantage of the newer " cohesive gel” silicone implants is that in the event of a leakage the silicone does not spread pass the capsule tissue surrounding the breast implant.

You may want to refer to the FDA website or the breast and manufacturers'  websites for more specific information regarding cohesive gel breast implants and safety concerns.

Hopefully, after you have done your research you will  enjoy the results of the surgery.

Best wishes.

Cohesive gel implants

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 Nearly all silicone implants today are cohesive gel implants. This has revolutionized breast implant surgery and it brings up the question of what really constitutes an implant rupture In this new era of silicone implants.  You can literally take one of the new implants and poke a hole in it with a needle and silicone will not run out. In fact, it is difficult to even find the poke hole. In a real life situation with a small rupture, the silicone may not even make it out of the outer shell, much less the capsule. Even if the silicone were to escape the shell, it is a very inert substance with no significant toxicity to the human body. It is of course, wise to remove and replace an implant in the rare occasion that a rupture is found. In summary, the new cohesive gel implants are significantly better and safer than their predecessors.

Ben Lee, MD - Account Suspended
Denver Plastic Surgeon

Don't freak out! None of this is proven to ever happen

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After dozens of years of study by world renowned experts it has never been proven that silicone can migrate to your brain your lungs or your arms and legs.  All of your organs are safe and you have no chance of getting wrecked by silicon in your body.  The new highly cross linked silicone molecules in your implants prevent movement outside of your pocket where the implants are sitting.  They are sticky and cannot be broken down by any of your bodies fluids.

All that being said I wonder how much research you did before you got these implants.  Your doctor should have explained this to you before the surgery and both manufacturers have web sites where you can read all about this.

Finally, at two months there is zero chance your implants have broken anyway.  But if you can't sleep at all at night because you are too worried about this then maybe this wasn't a good idea for you in the first place and you should go back to your doctor to have them removed. I hope you can learn to live with them however, especially if you like what it did for your figure.

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.