: Rupture and leakage are recognized problems associated with silicone breast implants. Data are scarce about the durability of the silicone shell, and the life span of this device is unknown.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the strength of silicone breast implants. Thirty implant shells were subjected to mechanical testing. Twenty-nine of the shells were tested after explantation, and one unused implant served as a control to validate the testing method. Implantation time varied from 4 months to 20 years, and all shells were tested, regardless of condition. Fourteen implant shells were intact, eight were leaking, and seven were ruptured. All ruptured implants had been in place for 10 years or longer.
The breaking force of all excised shell specimens ranged from 2.6 to 22.4 N (0.6 to 5.0 lb). Specimens from the control "high performance" shell required 15.5 to 25.6 N (3.5 to 5.8 lb) of force to fail. The weakest group was from thin-shelled implants between 10 and 16 years of age. More than half these specimens failed with less than 1 lb of force. The average breaking force of ruptured shell material was less than that of intact shells.
A comparison of strength data in this study with manufacturers' data suggests that breaking force is dependent on implant type, shell thickness, and implantation time, (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 97: 1215, 1996.)
(C)1996American Society of Plastic Surgeons