So, Just How Strong Are Breast Implants?

Considering giving your breasts a little boost, but concerned about the possibility of an unexpected —and undesired!—deflation? Just how strong are breast implants?

Augmentation mammoplasty, or breast enlargement by surgery, involves placing a silicone or saline-filled implant in your chest. A saline breast implant is a solid silicone rubber outer shell filled with sterile salt water, while silicone filled breast implants are a solid silicone rubber outer shell filled with cohesive or highly cohesive silicone gel. Implants can be smooth or textured, and round or shaped. Both the saline and silicone implants also come in three types. Learn more about implant types and choosing silicone vs saline.

What can cause an implant to break?

According to the FDA, a rupture (a tear or hole in the outer shell of the breast implant) can be caused by any of the following:
  • capsular contracture
  • compression during a mammogram
  • damage by surgical instruments, too much handling during surgery, or placement through a belly button (umbilical) incision site, which requires more handling of the implant
  • damage during procedures to the breast, such as biopsies and fluid drainage
  • normal aging of the implant
  • over-filling or under-filling of saline-filled breast implants
  • physical stresses to the breast such as trauma or intense physical pressure
However, it’s more common for a rupture to occur without any apparent cause. A failure rate of 2 percent per seven years has been reported, while a rupture within the first three years is unusual but not unheard of, according to the Breast Implant Safety website.
As for the problems with silicone implants, although the FDA recommended in 1992 that they be removed them from the market pending further evaluation, in 2006, the FDA approved Allergan and Mentor’s PMAs (premarket approval applications) for silicone gel-filled breast implants. And in its 2011 report, the FDA said “silicone gel-filled breast implants have a reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness when used as labeled.”

Is silicone or saline stronger?

Newport Beach plastic surgeon, Sanjay Grover, posted a series of video in which he demonstrated the difference between the durability of a saline implant vs. a silicone implant. Watch below:
So, why did the silicone implant stand up to both Dr. Grover’s tests better than the saline? The chemical properties of the silicone make it stronger than saline. Silicone has a higher boiling point than saline, making it resistant to heat. Silicone molecules are more flexible than water, so when the car ran over the silicone implant it was able to absorb and distribute the weight evenly. While saline molecules aren’t as flexible and burst with the added pressure. [1]

What if my implant ruptures?

Nothing lasts forever and that includes breast implants, although, generally speaking they can last from 10 to 20 years. The good news is that if a saline-filled implant breaks, while you’ll notice a change in your breast, the contents of the implants will be absorbed by the body within hours without any adverse effects. However, if you want to replace the implant, you will have to undergo surgery.
In the case of a silicone implant rupture, some of the gel may escape and migrate away from the breast, causing lumps to form in the breast, chest wall, armpit, arm, or abdomen. You might also notice decreased breast size, hard knots, uneven appearance of the breasts, pain or tenderness, tingling, swelling, numbness, burning, or changes in sensation. However, most ruptures are “silent ruptures,” occurring without any symptoms. For this reason, current FDA recommendations include having an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) every other year starting with the third year to look for silent ruptures.
If you suspect your implant has ruptured or is leaking, the Breast Implant Safety website recommends calling your plastic surgeon as soon as possible.

Will the breast implant affect my mammogram readings?

Keep in mind that where your implant is placed can also affect the accuracy of your mammogram, which can be of special interest to women at higher risk for breast cancer. One option, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, is to locate the implant underneath the pectoral muscle (subpectoral) but that is just one factor to consider regarding implant placement.


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