Silicone Breast Implants and the Utility of MRI’s to Screen for Rupture

Silicone breast implant

There have been considerable technological advances in the design and construction of silicone breast implants since their early days. They are made with much thicker, stronger and durable outer shells that are filled with a very cohesive silicone gel – almost like taffy. The result is that they will withstand much more and last longer on average compared to previous versions.

But, they will not last forever?

Of course not!

The FDA in 2006 recommended (not mandated) that women who have silicone implants inserted for a breast augmentation in Scottsdale or breast reconstruction should have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) three years postoperatively then every other year afterwards. There was no specific data supporting their recommendation, however. Given the expense of an MRI which often may not be covered by a woman’s insurance plan, is this a prudent recommendation? Is it worth the money?

A retrospective study was performed at the University of Michigan and published in the March 2011 issue of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® journal which examined 21 previous studies that had evaluated MRI’s and their ability to detect silicone implant rupture. The findings of the combined data were quite interesting and enlightening.

What was confirmed was that MRI’s were fairly accurate in detecting implant rupture but this wasn’t the whole story. In those women who presented with symptoms related to their implants, MRI’s were 14 times more likely to detect a rupture than in those who were asymptomatic. Looking at this from a different angle, the MRI’s were less helpful in women who had no symptoms.

Given that silicone gel implants on average last in excess of 10 years, can one justify the expense of repeated MRI’s as a screening tool for implant rupture (and breast evaluation) in otherwise asymptomatic women at least during this period of time compared to a routine screening mammogram for cancer?

With the present technology and the findings from this study, the answer is probably not. Mammograms and or ultrasounds (which are less accurate in the detection of implant rupture) should be performed for routine breast cancer screening. If there is evidence or a suspicion of an implant rupture, then an MRI can be considered or performed.

For more information on silicone gel breast implants, breast enlargement surgery in scottsdale, breast reconstruction or for any other plastic surgery procedure that I perform please feel free to call my office at 480-451-3000. A consultation can be scheduled at that time as well.

Steven H. Turkeltaub, M.D. P.C.
Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona

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