Why do Breast Implants Leak?

The manufacturers list the chance of a breast implant leaking as about 1% a year. That means the longer the implant is in your body, the higher the possibility of it leaking. For example, at 10 years, the risk is 10%. Some last forever, others leak in the first year.

Why do implants leak? There are two main reasons, and one rare occurrence. The most likely event is called “fold flaw fatigue.” This occurs at the edge of the implant, and is caused by a small folding of the implant due to muscle movement which causes the two edges to rub against each other and over the course of years wears a hole in the implant. The second big cause is a valve malfunction, or some tissue growing into the valve if it is a saline filled implant. It is rarely the result of a car accident or falling on your chest. Even rarer are manufacturer’s defects.

When an implant leaks, there are costs associated with replacing it. You have to realize it is not the fault of the surgeon when an implant leaks. It has nothing to do with technique. You need a surgery with a new implant, anesthesia, supplies and recovery, all of which cost money. Sometimes the manufacturers offer a replacement implant at no charge, and some offer you insurance that you have to buy before surgery to cover this type of occurrence.

When a patient of mine has a leak within the first year, I do not charge to replace it and cover the costs out of my pocket, as even though it is not my fault, I feel badly. After a year, I charge less than if you had the implant done elsewhere and came to me for replacement.

While I hope that none of my patients ever have an implant leak, I know that this is not possible. I put in hundreds every year, and have been in private practice over 21 years. This means I have about 10,000 implants floating around the world. Even though it is unpleasant, I hope that if any of them leak, the patient would return to me so I have the chance of helping them again.