Friday, April 24, 2015

Silicone Breast Implant Rupture - Ultrasound or MRI?

Breast implant rupture is a risk associated with both saline and silicone implants, whether they are placed for cosmetic augmentation or breast reconstruction.

In the case of a saline implant, a rupture is very easy to detect. Saline implants deflate after rupturing as the saline (salt water) leaves the implant and is reabsorbed by the body. Beyond a clinical evaluation, no tests are required to confirm the rupture.

Silicone breast implant ruptures are usually much harder to detect. Early ruptures often go unnoticed by the patient since the silicone remains contained within the capsule of scar tissue formed by the body around the implant. These are known as "intracapsular" ruptures and are the most common. Intracapsular ruptures can progress to "extracapsular" ruptures over time.

Extracapsular ruptures involve a break in the scar capsule around the implant which allows silicone to leak out into the surrounding tissues. Associated changes in the breast can include capsular contracture, distortion, firmness, asymmetry and pain. Extracapsular silicone can also find its way into the lymphatics and lymph nodes.

If your silicone breast implant has ruptured the implant should be removed or replaced, if possible before the rupture becomes extracapsular.

The first step is to confirm the rupture with either an ultrasound or MRI. Most plastic surgeons, myself included, strongly prefer MRI when the patient has symptoms or a rupture is suspected since MRI is more accurate than ultrasound (94 vs 72%) and is less likely to miss a rupture.

silicone breast implant rupture MRI linguine sign
Silicone Breast Implant MRI.
White arrow = "linguine sign" of intracapsular rupture
Black arrow = damaged implant capsule

Routine Screening to Check Silicone Implant Integrity

The FDA recommends that patients with silicone gel breast implants (cosmetic and reconstructive) undergo MRI screening to check for silent (intracapsular) rupture 3 years after implants are placed and every 2 years after that. Most plastic surgeons feel these recommendations are excessive since the risk of implant rupture within the first 5 years is very low and MRIs are very expensive. Many surgeons don't feel any routine screening is necessary at all. For those who do advocate for routine implant screening in women without any symptoms or changes on exam, ultrasound is a more cost effective alternative followed by MRI if the ultrasound is positive.

I hope this info helps!

Dr C


Dr Chrysopoulo is a board certified plastic surgeon in San Antonio, TX, specializing in breast reconstruction and cosmetic breast surgery. Patients are welcomed from across and outside the US. To schedule a consultation, please call (800) 692-5565 or email Connect with Dr C on Twitter and Facebook.


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