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Silicone Breast Implant Rupture: Pitfalls of Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Relative Efficacies of Magnetic Resonance, Mammography, and Ultrasound

Ikeda Debra M. M.D.; Borofsky, Harriet B. M.D.; Herfkens, Robert J. M.D.; Sawyer-Glover, Anne M. R.R.T.; Birdwell, Robyn L. M.D.; Glover, Gary H. Ph.D
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: December 1999
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The objective of this study was to evaluate the relative efficacies of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, ultrasonography, and mammography in implant rupture detection and to illustrate pitfalls in MR image interpretation. Thirty patients referred by plastic surgeons with suspected breast implant rupture were prospectively evaluated using MR, ultrasonography, and mammography. Imaging examinations were interpreted independently and blindly for implant rupture and correlated to operative findings. Surgical correlation in 16 patients (53 percent) with 31 implants showed 13 (42 percent) were intact, 5 (16 percent) had severe gel bleed, and 13 (42 percent) were ruptured. MR sensitivity was 100 percent and specificity was 63 percent. Accuracy for rupture was 81 percent with MR, higher than with ultrasonography and mammography (77 and 59 percent, respectively). We describe a specific pitfall in MR interpretation, the “rat-tail” sign, composed of a medial linear extension of silicone along the chest wall. Seen in eight cases (four intact, three ruptures, one gel bleed), the rat-tail sign may lead to misdiagnosis of implant rupture if seen in isolation. Magnetic resonance imaging is more accurate and sensitive than ultrasonography and mammography in detecting breast implant rupture. We describe a new sign (rat-tail sign) composed of medial compression of the implant simulating silicone extrusion as a potential false-positive MR finding for rupture. This article presents clinical experience with magnetic resonance, mammography, and ultrasound in the diagnosis of implant rupture and defines and illustrates potential pitfalls of MR interpretation, including the new rat-tail sign. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 104: 2054, 1999.)

From the Department of Radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine and the Richard Lucas Radiological Sciences Laboratory at Stanford University. Received for publication March 9, 1999; revised April 26, 1999.

Presented in part at the 1994 American Roentgen Ray Society Annual Meeting.

Debra M. Ikeda, M.D.

Stanford University School of Medicine Department of Radiology S-068A, Route 1 Stanford, Calif.

©1999American Society of Plastic Surgeons