Breast implant manufacturers concur that breast implants are not considered lifetime devices. They may rupture or deflate for various reasons, including, but not limited to: closed capsulotomy, trauma to the breast, injury from surgical instruments, normal wear and tear on the implant, severe cases of capsular contracture, and mechanical damage prior to or during surgery. Breast implants can also wear out over time. While ruptures can occur at any time after surgery, they are more likely the longer the implant has been implanted.
Silent Rupture of Silicone Gel Breast Implants
A silent rupture is an implant rupture which has no symptoms. This means that neither you nor your surgeon would know of the rupture without some sort of diagnostic imaging such as MRI. Because most silicone breast implant ruptures are silent, MRI imaging is recommended at 3 years post-op, and every 2 years thereafter to screen for rupture.
A symptomatic rupture is an implant rupture that produces symptoms such as hardness, burning, swelling, pain, lumps, and changes in the size and/or shape of the breast.
Below is a photo of a woman with a ruptured breast implant. As you can see, her left breast lacks the fullness of the right breast.
Silicone Gel Breast Implants - Rupture / Deflation Symptoms
If a silicone gel implant leaks, there may be a noticeable difference in the shape or size of the breast. Other symptoms include numbness, tingling, burning, pain or tenderness, swelling, and hard knots in the breasts. It is not at all unusual to have no symptoms. This is called a "silent rupture". When a rupture is suspected, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is commonly used to evaluate the situation.
Saline Breast Implants - Rupture Symptoms
The main symptom of rupture / deflation in saline breast implants is a noticeable change in the shape and/or size of your breast. As the saline leaks out of the implant, it is absorbed into the body.
Saline ruptures tend to happen rather quickly. It can also happen slowly, but this seems to be rare. Slow leaks would likely come from a very tiny opening at the top of the implant.
Understanding the Consistency of Saline and Silicone Gel Implants
The silicone gel breast implants of today are much different than the silicone implants of the 70s and 80s. Today's gel implants are cohesive, meaning that the silicone gel inside of the implant shell cannot "spill" in the event of a puncture or tear in the implant shell. To better understand this, watch the video below. The video below will show you three types of implants: saline, cohesive silicone gel, and the old-style silicone gel implants, and how they react when the shell is punctured.