Saline Breast Implants were the only implant available in the US from 1992 through 1996 for breast augmentation. In my practice, I get a lot of patients with questions about needing to replace or exchange these implants. First let me say that you DO NOT have to exchange your implants just because they are of a certain age. If they’re not broken, don’t fix them.
Now, sometimes they do fail. The failure rate at 10 years is about 2.5%, so it’s low but it does occur. So how do you know? Well, you’ll literally get a “flat tire”. But how this shows itself varies based on why the implant failed. There are 2 points of failure for a saline implant. The first is if the fill valve fails, the second is a shell failure. The fill valve is a one way trap door valve that we plug into to fill the implant. If the valve becomes incompetent, what you will see is that the upper half of the implant loses its volume. The valve is right in the middle of the implant so all the water above this will leak out. The bottom half will stay filled. So basically, your fullness above nipple goes away. If the second problem occurs, the outer shell gets a hole in it, the implant tends to deflate more readily and the entire implant will empty. Your breast will return to its pre augmented size. It’s typically not hard to detect for obvious reason.
The leaked saline will not harm you. It is nothing but saline IV fluid, the very same stuff we give patients who need an IV. So there is no danger to it.
So that’s the story on saline implants and leaking. If for whatever reason you were worried your implants were leaking, just look in the mirror. If they look the same as always, they aren’t leaking. If they do leak, no need to panic, they are warrantied for your lifetime and an exchange is a quick and easy procedure.
Lee Corbett, MD
Medical Director Corbett Cosmetic Aesthetic Surgery and Med Spa