July 29, 2003 -- A new study adds to the sullied reputation of silicone breast implants. It shows that many rupture within 10 years of having them implanted. The older the breast implant the greater the chance of it breaking, say researchers.
There have been previous studies about breast implants ruptures but this study's researchers say theirs is the first one that has directly examined the timing and frequency of ruptures. It appears in the July issue of the Archives of Surgery.
Researchers based their findings from MRI scans on women with silicone breast implants. They used MRI because mammograms are not sensitive enough to detect a rupture. Unlike saline ruptures, which are more obvious because of the deflated device, silicone breast implant ruptures may go unnoticed by both the woman and her doctor.
The study began with MRIs on 271 women who had had 317 silicone breast implants for at least three years. Two years later they had another MRI. By then, 33 of the implants ruptured and another 23 "possibly ruptured" during those first two years of the study.
Older Breast Implants Riskier
Overall, researchers estimate that five of every 100 silicone breast implants will "definitely" rupture each year. Also, age of the implant significantly increased the risk of it breaking, with older implants having a higher rate of rupture.
The study showed modern silicone implants are more durable, with 98% estimated to last after five years, but only 83%-85% intact 10 years after surgery. For older types of implants the rupture rates were higher with only approximately 50%-60% of the implants still intact at 15 years. The earlier type implants had higher rupture rates presumably due to the longer time implanted, which was found to be the single most important factor in determining rupture risk.
Researchers say the study reveals there may be a false sense of security in routinely or simply exchanging silicone breast implants every 10 years or more, as some plastic surgeons suggest. By that point, researchers say at least 15% of modern implants have already ruptured.
Debate still rages, however, over whether leaked silicone is definitively linked with autoimmune diseases. Silicone breast devices have been banned for implant in the U.S. since 1992.
SOURCE: Archives of Surgery, July 2003.