Breast Implant Rupture After Radiation

Although rare, new research shows rupture of an implant due to breast cancer care should be considered.


The rupture rate for breast implants is about 10% at 10 years after insertion. That means women aged ≥ 70 years have a greater risk of rupture. For women who had breast augmentation or reconstruction before the advent of fifth-generation implants, there are no specific recommendations regarding follow-up and very little guidance in the literature about management for those who have had implants after radiation, say clinicians from Mayo Clinic.


They report on a 74-year-old patient who was treated for breast cancer in 1987 and 1988. She underwent lumpectomy, adjuvant unilateral radiation, a right simple mastectomy, left modified radical mastectomy, and implant-based reconstruction. Nearly 30 years later, she felt an asymmetry in 1 breast. Magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound revealed that both implants had ruptured.

It is well known, the clinicians say, that complications of postmastectomy radiotherapy include capsular contracture, infection, and loss of prosthesis in implant-based reconstruction. Studies have shown that fibrosis, a hallmark of chronic radiation therapy, can show up even several years after radiotherapy—underscoring the importance of long-term follow-up for these patients. Moreover, the fact that the consequences of silicone on irradiated mastectomy flaps is unknown posed a further challenge.

While the cause of their patient’s implant rupture is unknown, the clinicians say it is “very likely” that delayed-onset fibrosis and capsular contracture secondary to radiation played a role. Such complications, though rare, should be kept in mind, the clinicians advise, when evaluating patients who had radiation and implants.


Molinar VE, Sabbagh MD, Manrique OJ. BMJ Case Rep. 2018; pii: bcr-2018-224578.
doi: 10.1136/bcr-2018-224578.

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