Silicone Breast Implants and MRI Screening

What most women, particularly those who have had breast augmentation surgery, don’t know is that MRIs are effective in early detection of silicone implant rupture or leakage. Unlike leaked or ruptured saline implants, in which the implant immediately deflates and the saline is re-absorbed by the body, silicone gel implant leaks can remain undetected in the breast For long periods of time.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates the manufacture and sale of breast implants, released updated guidelines in June 2011 regarding the use of MRI to screen for undetected (“silent”) silicone implant rupture or leakage. An MRI screening was recommended starting three years after the breast augmentation surgery, and every two years thereafter. The guidelines can be found here, with the specifics on MRI screening starting on page 29.

Other Research

A study from the April 2008 issue of the medical journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery questioned the reliability of MRI to detect silicone implant leakage. It attempted to weigh the benefits of regular MRI screenings for silicone implant patients against the disadvantages, such as patient anxiety, a high rate of false-positives, and possibly unnecessary surgery to remove implants that may not be defective.

Another study from the March 2011 issue of the same journal looked at a group of 21 previously published studies to determine if there was a consensus as to the accuracy of MRI compared to ultrasound in detecting silicone leakage or rupture in women who showed symptoms, as well as those who did not. The researchers found that MRI was 14 times more likely to detect a silicone rupture or leakage in women with symptoms than in those women without symptoms. There was no consensus as to the accuracy of ultrasound in detecting silicone implant rupture or leaking in women with or without symptoms.

Mammograms and Breast Implants

Most older women are aware that breast cancer mammography screenings usually begin at age 40 and are recommended as an annual preventive measure, according to the American Cancer Society. The argument is that screening detection of breast cancer allows for early detection and treatment. Women with implants may be concerned that the results of mammogram exams may be affected.

Unfortunately, the implants can obscure a full view of the breast, making it more difficult to detect possible breast cancer early on. In addition, there is a slight risk that the mammogram machine can damage the implants when it squeezes the breast in order to get the image. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is more sophisticated than mammography, can provide a way to screen patients with breast implants for the possibility of breast cancer.

Overall, the conclusion is that patients need to work with both their cosmetic surgeon and their regular general practitioner in order to determine the best course of action regarding screening for both breast cancer and possible silicone implant leak or rupture (particularly if there are no symptoms).

Contact Marin Aesthetics today to schedule a breast augmentation or breast implant revision consultation.

About the Author:

Dr. Vince Marin is a San Diego board-certified plastic surgeon specializes in cosmetic surgery of the face, nose, breast and body. If you wish to contact Dr. Marin, write to [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter!