Saline breast implants may not be as popular as the silicone variety, but some patients still prefer them. There are actually significant differences that make saline breast implants unique. For starters, a saline breast implant deflates when it ruptures. The silicone variety doesn’t change in volume as the silicone filler “just sits there” and actually behaves like a run flat tire – it still works even though it technically has a “flat”.
Experiencing this deflation process can be very disturbing to patients. Most breast augmentation patients have enjoyed the benefits of their saline breast implants and can’t even remember what they used to have. A deflation is a big time disappointment for many reasons and as it usually happens to one side it can cause a management problem—how do you make your breasts look the same when one is deflated?! Emotionally, implant deflation is a constant source of anxiety and stress.
From a health perspective, there is no harm coming from a breast implant deflation. This is not an emergency that requires the immediate consultation with a plastic surgeon. The harmless saline fluid is absorbed by the body and excreted as if you just drank a glass of water. The breast often deflates partially over a few days to weeks. It could go on to a full deflation but most patients will have sought out treatment before this happens. It may get smaller by 20-30 percent and then show no signs of getting smaller for a while. The loss of volume is typically noted in the upper pole of the breast that will show signs of flattening and loss of firmness.
Although not a medical emergency, I would suggest that you seek out treatment within a few weeks because the implant capsule (the scar around the implant itself) will contract and get smaller. What this means for you is that a simple procedure under local anesthesia can turn into a bigger procedure. One that requires more anesthesia if your surgeon needs to expand the implant pocket so the new implant will fit properly.
Special tests such as a CT scan, X ray, Ultrasound or MRI are not needed when a saline breast implant deflation occurs. It’s obvious what is going on so the next step is to change out the implant. As a general rule, it’s advisable to change out BOTH implants so they have equal time to work for years to come. It’s also a good time to consider changing out your implants to the silicone variety which is very popular nowadays as it is recognized that these implants are harmless and feel better than the saline variety.
To review, if you have a saline breast implant deflation, don’t panic; no tests are needed and it’s harmless. I would recommend that you visit with your surgeon within three weeks if the deflation is partial and two weeks if it’s complete so you can make some plans to take them out or exchange them for either saline or silicone. No worries!
— Robert Caridi, MD
Diplomate of the American Board of Plastic Surgery
Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS)
Member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)
Member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
Founder of the Austin Gynecomastia Center
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