Most implant manufacturers recommend exchanging implants at 10 years. This is due to rupture rates of implant. Breast implants are mechanical devices and the longer they go the more likely they are to break down and rupture. Many women have concerns that their implants could already be ruptured. Ruptures could occur due to the age of the implant or due to trauma to the chest – such as a car accident. So how would a patient be able to determine if their implants are ruptured?

Saline breast implants

Saline breast implants have a silicone shell but are filled with saline (salt water). The main advantage of this implant is when it ruptures it is generally very obvious. This is due to the fact that when most saline implants rupture the saline deflates from the implants very quickly. It is absorbed by the body as it is salt water. Once that happens there is a very noticeable and drastic change in the appearance of the breast. This will occur rapidly over a couple of days. If the breast looks relatively symmetric in size and you can feel your breast implant easily then most likely the saline implant is intact and has not ruptured.

Silicone breast implants

Silicone breast implants differ from saline implants in that the fill material is a cohesive silicone gel. When a silicone implant ruptures, the silicone generally will stay contained within the capsule or shell of scar tissue that the body has formed around the implant. Therefore, ruptured silicone implants generally don’t change shape and size when they rupture. It is very difficult for a plastic surgeon to tell if a silicone implant has ruptured. Sometimes the body will create a thicker capsule around a ruptured silicone implant which could be an indication of a rupture. But to truly know if a silicone implant has ruptured the patient would need an MRI. This is gold standard for checking the integrity of the implant. A mammogram or ultrasound can sometimes be used but an MRI would give a more definitive answer.