The word explode means to “burst or shatter violently and noisily as a result of rapid combustion”. It gives us visions of a messy, brutal experience… something like out of a horror movie. This is not really what happens when breast implants rupture or “explode”. We look at this possible side effect of breast implants and exactly what does happen with the help of Dr Patrick Tansley MD FRCS (Plast), from North East Plastic Surgery, with clinics in Melbourne and Brisbane.
Most of us remember the recall of silicone breast implants in France after one thousand of them ruptured. Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) was the company responsible for making the implants that ruptured and it was due to them being made with industrial-grade silicone instead of medical grade silicone. There were approximately 300,000 women (some reports say up to 400,000) around the world who had received the implants. Brazil actually took the action of banning any implants from PIP in their country. Many other countries advised women who had the implants to get them removed. France’s government offered French women to have them removed for free. The Australian government’s view was that the implants should only be removed if a complication was identified.
There are a few different companies supplying Australia with breast implants. Dr Tansley says he will only use P-URE (from P-oly-URE-thane) foam covered silicone implants for women considering undergoing breast augmentation surgery as they are covered by a lifetime guarantee against rupture and for 10 years against capsular contracture, rotation and displacement. He advises that whilst these implants offer enormous advantages in comparison to ordinary smooth and textured silicone implants, their use should not be undertaken by surgeons unfamiliar with the technical challenges they pose and the demanding surgical approach required. He therefore advises that patients should specifically enquire as to whether their surgeon has been properly trained in cosmetic breast surgery and is experienced in the use of polyurethane foam covered silicone implants. Only by doing so can the patient hope to benefit from the specific advantages offered by polyurethane foam covered silicone implants.
There are a few misguided rumours about breast implants exploding in different situations. One of the main ones is that they can explode on planes or at high altitude. This is completely untrue and there have even been experiments done to discount this theory. Imagine if every woman who ever had an implant could no longer fly! This is just not the case.
When breast implants “explode” they are actually rupturing or have a leak. It means the implant’s outer silicone shell has broken and the contents of the implant are leaking. In the case of saline (salt water) filled implants this is not a big deal as the saline is simply absorbed by the body. However, in the case of silicone filled implants you will definitely need to have the silicone removed through surgery as it can cause pain, discomfort, swelling, hardening of the breast, lumps or odd shapes in the breast.
You do need to be aware that there is such thing as a “silent rupture”. This is where the capsule (internal scar formed by the body around the implant) contains the silicone in place so that whilst the implant has in fact ruptured, you may not show or feel any signs of anything being wrong. You should know what your breasts feel like with implants in them and do regular checks just like all women should when looking for breast cancer. If you notice or feel anything out of place you should consult with your doctor or surgeon who may suggest an MRI scan in order to make sure your implants haven’t ruptured. Early detection and treatment is clearly of paramount importance.
It is difficult to put a time frame on how long implants last. Recent advances in technology have led to current generation implants having improved safety profiles, in part relating to the silicone gel used now being cohesive in nature. However, there is a significant relationship between capsular contracture, the commonest complication of breast implants, and implant rupture. In this context, further advances relate to the surface covering of implants. It is less commonly appreciated that the polyurethane foam covering on the implants used by Dr Tansley has existed for in excess of four decades and reduces the rate of capsular contracture from around 15-20% to as low as 1%. This is the principal reason, but not the only reason, why Dr Tansley will not use any other implants for his patients. He considers polyurethane foam covered silicone implants to be the only currently justifiable technology for use in prosthetic breast augmentation.
So in a short answer, breast implants don’t “explode” but can certainly rupture. Going to a well respected and experienced surgeon properly trained in plastic surgery who uses premium quality implants will certainly reduce your chances of rupture. You should definitely do your homework about which breast implant manufacturers have a good reputation or which are associated with any recalls or bans and further which surgeons are appropriately trained.
If you would like more information on the experienced Dr Patrick Tansley MD FRCS (Plast) click here, or you can phone their Melbourne Clinic on 03 9088 5000 or their Brisbane Clinic on 07 3180 3400 to arrange a consult.