As with any manmade device, sometimes failures will occur. In the case of saline breast implants, we see a much higher failure rate than we do with silicone breast implants. This is due to the lack of support strength provided by the shell or wall of the implant. The saline or salt water does not provide enough support, compared to silicone, to keep the implant from folding in on itself.
This folding action can cause additional stress on an already unsupported shell. Movement of the patient’s arms, such as driving or combing the hair, can cause a bending action on these breast implant folds working them back and forth. Almost like bending a coat hanger back and forth, over time the hanger will break, similarly an implant can break from too much motion. Most saline implant failures are a result of shell failure not a leaking valve. Leaking valves account for only a very small percentage of failures. Failures from direct trauma to the breast, such as sporting activities or auto accidents, are even more rare.
Once an implant shell fails, the implant deflates quickly in a matter of a few days. Implant valve failures leak much more slowly, usually over a period of weeks or months. The saline is absorbed into the body quickly and urinated out. The patient usually first notices a loss in breast volume which leads her to a consultation with a revision surgeon. Sometimes a patient may also experience discomfort from the folded edge of the implant poking into the surrounding skin.
Once the diagnosis of saline implant failure is made, one should consider corrective re-operation as soon as reasonably possible. Waiting any substantial length of time, usually more than a few weeks, will allow the breast pocket to contract. If this occurs it may require a more extensive operation to repair and open the contracted scar tissue than just simply exchanging the leaking implant for a new one.
Frequently patients will want to change both sides, even if only one side has deflated, as a precautionary measure. If this is done, it is also the time to consider changing from saline to silicone implants and/or changing sizes either up or down.
Remember, if your saline implant has deflated it is not cause for alarm, but you should seek consultation with a breast implant revision surgeon as soon as reasonably possible.
Please contact our office if you are from outside the Southern California area for a preliminary telephone conversation with Dr. Moser personally to ascertain if an in-person consultation would be helpful to you.