Breast Implant Leakage: Signs, Treatment, Risks
Women who undergo breast augmentation have more than one thing to worry about – breast implant leakage. Whether it is silicone or saline, breast implants can possibly develop a hole or tear, resulting in a leak. So, what are the symptoms of a leak and is there a treatment for it?
Overview: Breast Implants
Breast implant operation is done over the course of 60 to 90 minutes, where the individual is placed under general anesthesia. A cut is made under the breast or at the bottom of the areola. Afterward, a pocket is made under the pectoralis muscle where the implant will then be positioned before the cut is stitched back up.
A majority of breast augmentation procedures go without complications. But like all surgical procedures, there are a few risks. Such possibilities may arise in one percent of patients who have undergone breast implant operation. Further surgery or medical treatment is required to correct these instances.
- Pain in Breast Area or Nipple
- Breast Implant Leakage
- Asymmetry of Breasts (Level, Shape, Size)
- The Skin of Breast Shrinking or Thinning
- Breast Tissue Atrophy
- Formation of Calcium Deposits Under the Skin Surrounding the Implant
- Scar Tissue Surrounding Implant Feels Tight
- Hardening of Breast
- Rib Cage or Chest Wall Deformity
- Deflation of Breast Implant Due to Cut, Tear, or Leak
- Improper Healing of Cut
- Skin Breaks Down, and Implant is Seen Through the Skin
- Accumulation of Blood at Surgical Site Causing Bruising and Swelling
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
- Incorrect Positioning of the Implant
- Tissue or Skin Death Surrounding the Breast
- Accumulation of Fluid Around the Implant Resulting in Bruising, Swelling, and Pain
Take note that whatever the implant is, breast implant surgery comes with numerous risks. So, it is vital that the individual who is going through with it to research all available implants, side effects, and complications. From there, choose which option is the best for one’s preference.
One must first know the usual side effects associated with breast implant surgery. This is so one can understand its difference from a possible complication. The typical adverse reactions felt after breast implant surgery include temporary pain, bruising, swelling, and a feeling of tightness in the chest, which can be felt for a few weeks.
However, if an individual manifests other side effects apart from what has been mentioned, then it may likely be a complication. Some of the common complications associated with breast implant surgery are as follows.
- Formation of Thick Scar Tissue
- Hardening of the Breast Tissue
- Rotation of the Implant Within the Breast
- Formation of Noticeable Folds or Creases in the Implant
- Rippling of the Implant
- Nerve Damage to the Nipples
- Less Breast Milk Production
- Unable to Breastfeed
- Implant Leakage Resulting in Formation of Small Lumps
Other complications of the procedure that are less likely to affect an individual include the following.
- Blood Clot Formation in Veins Deep Within the Body
- Allergic Reaction to the Anesthesia
- Excessive Bleeding During the Procedure
Cancer and Breast Implants
Studies have revealed that there is a certain type of cancer that is associated with breast implants. This is a cancer cell affecting the immune system and is referred to as anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). While it is extremely rare, ALCL has been common in women who have undergone breast implant surgery.
Moreover, ALCL is also likely to appear years after the surgical implant. An individual would first notice swelling on the breast where the implant has been placed. In cases such as this, the fluid would be tested and would be found positive of the cancer cell.
While mammograms help in detecting breast cancer, it is less accurate for individuals with breast implants. Thus, additional tests are advised.
Signs of Rupture
A ruptured implant leads to changes in breast size and shape. It also leads to swelling, firmness, and increased pain. For silicone breast implants, a rupture sometimes does not lead to visible or noticeable manifestations and is referred to as a silent rupture.
A ruptured implant leads to a leak that may cause swelling and irritation. Scar tissue is also likely to occur. Other symptoms of breast implant leakage include the following.
- Changes in Shape or Size
Rupturing of the implant can occur due to numerous factors such as normal aging of the implant, needle insertion during a biopsy, or trauma as a result of a car accident. According to a study conducted in 2013, silicone implant ruptures were a result of damage due to surgical instruments while the implant was being placed.
For saline implants, a rupture or leak results in a deflated appearance of the breast. The saline from the implant is absorbed into the body. On the other hand, the rupture or leak of a silicon implant goes by unnoticed because the gel is thick and flows more slowly. Since the gel is not absorbed by the body, it may result in the formation of small and hard lumps in the affected breast.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, it is highly recommended that individuals with silicone breast implants get an MRI screening every three years to rule out a silent rupture. Another MRI screening is advised every two years after the surgery. For cases where a leak is suspected, it is crucial to have the area inspected. Such tests to screen for leaks include an MRI and ultrasound.
Ruptured silicone or saline implants are surgically removed. Some plastic surgeons would also take away the capsule of scar tissue that has formed around the implant. Even if one implant has ruptured, surgeons will remove both implants for both breasts.
Some doctors may advise autologous reconstruction, which takes tissue from another part of the body that is then placed onto the breast, rather than having new implants inserted. Such a procedure greatly minimizes the risk of complications associated with breast implants. Take note, however, that an autologous reconstruction is a time-consuming and a more complex procedure that requires a longer time to recover.