How Strong Are Your Breast Implants?
The breasts are an amazing feature of a woman’s body. This is why every there are so many products and services available in the market that allow women to enhance its shape and size, most notably through breast augmentation. In deciding to have your breasts augmented, there are two important things that you must consider:
1. Type of breast implant
There are two kinds of breast implants available in the market today: the saline breast implant and silicone breast implant. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages that must be considered when choosing the right breast implant for you. The table below briefly summarizes the differences between these two breast implants.
Durability of Breast Implants
The use of breast implants, especially its durability, has always been questioned because of the possibility of implant rupture. While implants are now made of sturdier materials, there are factors such as the age of the implant, trauma from physical impact, and improper and excessive handling during surgery and breast examinations that may contribute to their eventual breakdown and failure.
There are continuous development and improvement in the quality of implants that are being produced today, but the question still remains:
How strong are breast implants?
Let us take a look at several situations to see how durable breast implants really are. Although these situations and conditions may not occur on a regular basis, you may find it surprising how tough breast implants are before they rupture.
In 2012, model Sheyla Hershey got into a car accident as she was driving to pick up her husband from a Super Bowl party. She lost control of the car and crashed into a nearby tree. The airbags didn’t inflate and she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, yet she came out of the crash with just a feeling of soreness and a few bruises on her chest area.
What saved her from the accident was her saline breast implants. Sheyla Hershey has a 38KKK breast size that contains 4, 300 cc of saline.
The force of impact increases with speed. And while it was not mentioned, it may be safe to speculate that she was driving at a moderate speed (25 to 40 miles per hour) that is enough to cause damage to the car upon collision. Factor in the car’s mass and the crash can be forceful enough to cause the rupture of her implants. But instead, the breast implants have somehow remained intact through the collision and managed to cushion the impact force that would have caused more serious injuries.
An average bullet has a speed of 1, 700 miles per hour (2, 500 feet per second). This is greater than the speed of the fastest car. In order to dodge a bullet, a person must be at least 500 feet away in just 0.20 seconds after hearing the gun go off. But that is not the case with Lydia Carranza when she was shot at a close range in 2009.
The shooting incident would have ended tragically if it weren’t for Carranza’s silicone breast implants. She was shot twice: one in the arm and the other right at her chest. The bullet would’ve pierced her heart if it weren’t for her breast implant that took most of the blow. The implants acted like a bullet proof vest, averting the bullet fragments from damaging her heart and other vital organs. The shooting, however, left Carranza with a ruptured breast implant.
There have been similar incidents where breast implants saved women from an instantaneous death. A Canadian woman was saved by her breast implants when she was shot with a 9mm handgun in 2006. The bullet scraped against her right arm before penetrating her breast implants and left forearm. She had them replaced later on in another breast augmentation procedure. Similarly, her saline breast implants saved a Florida woman from sustaining thoracic injuries after being stabbed by an attacker on January 2012.
A study published in 2014 also presented a case where silicone breast implants prevented a 59-year-old woman from having any injuries after being shot twice in the right chest with a shotgun. Shotgun pellets were found in her silicone gel implants but her thoracic structures remained intact and injury-free.
Rumors have been circulating that breast implants explode at high altitudes. But these were contradicted when a television show tested the durability of silicone breast implants by placing them in hypobaric and hyperbaric chambers. These chambers simulated the conditions that exist during flight and deep sea diving, respectively.
The breast implants were first subjected to a typical cabin pressure, which for passengers’ comfort, is equivalent to 8, 000 feet above sea level. At this altitude, there were no changes that were observed in the implants. Then, a cruising altitude of 35, 000 feet, an elevation where passengers may experience hypoxia unless in a pressurized cabin, was simulated. But even at this elevation, the silicone breast implants remained intact with no expansion observed.
The last part of the test was done by placing the silicone breast implants in a make-shift hyperbaric chamber, which imitates the condition of deep sea diving. Afterward, the silicone implant was returned in the hypobaric chamber. But even with the quick alteration of elevation and pressure, the silicone breast implants did not explode, putting the exploding implant rumor and myth to rest.
The worst that can happen at high altitude is the gas formation in the breast. This causes unusual sensations during flight and is similar to decompression sickness during deep diving where gas bubbles form in the tissues. The formation of gas bubbles in the breast was explained in a finding that was published in a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery issue in 2013. Because tissues are more compressible than breast implants, the tissues surrounding the implants expand creating a vacuum-like space between the implant and implant capsule. When the body decompresses as the plane descends, dissolved gas in the blood is released into the body and accumulates in the space. The sensations this condition causes resolve when the gas is reabsorbed by the body after the pressure equalizes when the aircraft lands.
Pressure, like altitude, affects the human body. When diving, the body is exposed to high underwater pressure where there is a 14.7 psi increase in pressure for every 33 feet increase in depth. That is why divers have specialized gears and equipment to help equalize pressure while diving. Breast implants, however, remain unchanged even when exposed to high water pressure because of their different consistency compared to water.
Saline implants contain a salt solution that has an almost similar density as natural salt water. Because the saline solution acts like seawater which has low compressibility, the saline implant will not show distinct compression at depth. In an almost similar way, silicone gel is denser compared to water, making it compact enough to withstand high water pressure. Because of their densities, breast implants will neither expand nor compress in high underwater pressure, making it safe to go diving.
Another popular concern among women with breast implants is whether the implants will be affected by high temperature or not. This will depend, however, on the melting point of the polymer shell and the implant filler.
The human body has an average temperature of 98. 7 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). This is relatively low compared to the boiling point of the saline solution found in saline implants, which start at 212 °F (100 °C). The same goes with the silicone gel which has a melting point of 392 °F (200 °C).
Having said that, because they have high boiling and melting points, breast implants will not burst at body temperature. Even when in a sauna where temperature ranges from 150 to 190 °F (66- 90 °C), breast implants will remain intact and maintain a temperature the same as the body. The only implication of high temperature is when there is little breast tissue present. Silicone implants, in particular, can heat and cause skin burns.
The same is to be said of breast implants at low temperatures. Because breast implants, regardless of its filler, adapt to the temperature of the body, they tend to maintain their consistency even at low temperature. However, when found outside the body, a saline implant is likely to become frozen at very low temperature. But even if its volume expands upon freezing, the expansion of its shell will not result in breakage. Silicone breast implants, however, act in a different way compared with saline implants when outside the body. Even after days in the freezer, silicone implants remain soft and flexible while retaining the coldness which makes them a good cold compress.
Taking Care of Your Breast Implants
Now, breast implants today are different from what have been produced 50 years ago. With the advancement in technology, the quality of the implants has seen improvement over time. Implant rupture remains to be a risk, but you can be sure that breast implants are durable enough under rough circumstances.
But while they are designed to withstand extreme conditions, breast implants will not last forever. On average, implant life lasts for 10 to 25 years. This could be shortened, however, because of normal wear and tear and unexpected complications* which would require the breast implants to be replaced or removed over time.
Proper care for breast implants begins right after your breast augmentation surgery where your plastic surgeon provides post-operation instructions. But it should not stop after recovery. Having maintenance care is important and necessary to ensure that you and your breast implants remain in a healthy condition. In order to enjoy the benefits of having a nicely-shaped bosom in the longest time possible and to prevent the occurrence of complications, you must continue doing the following for as long you have breast implants:
• Avoid heavy physical stress
While having breast implants is not a contraindication to engaging in sports or similar activities, such physical stresses could still impose significant trauma to your breasts over time. If it can be avoided, refrain from engaging in activities that would cause serious injury to your chest area. Doing so reduces pain and prevents complications that can lead to implant failure.
• Wear the appropriate bra
Breast implants give the breast additional weight in the chest area. Wearing the correct bra will provide your breasts with the proper support it needs to prevent sagging. A good sports bra will also come in handy especially when you are into sports and other physical activities.
• Massage and compression exercises
Your plastic surgeon may advise that you perform massages and compression exercises for 1 to 6 months after your breast augmentation surgery. But even after the sixth month, you may continue doing massages and compression exercises. These help in preventing the development of capsular contracture and ensure that your breast implants are in correct position. You may consult with your plastic surgeon to know the correct massaging techniques for maximum benefits.
• Regular MRI scans
Women with silicone breast implants are recommended to have MRI scans 3 years after having breast augmentation and every 2 years after to check for any leaks or silent rupture. MRI scans enable you to check the conditions of your breasts and breast implants and prevent further complications that may arise when there is implant failure.
• Follow-up appointments with your plastic surgeon
It is encouraged that you have regular check-ups with your plastic surgeon long after you had breast augmentation surgery. This will enable you and your plastic surgeon to monitor your overall health and the condition of your breast implants as well as address any related problems in the quickest and most effective way possible.
Choosing the right breast implant is an important step when you decide to have breast augmentation. And while each type of implant has its own pros and cons, you are assured that both can be relatively durable given the ideal circumstances and can provide you with the results you desire from the augmentation procedure.
The situations that were enumerated were mainly to cite circumstances where breast implants prove to be durable regardless of their filler type. And while breast implants do prove to be strong enough to withstand extreme conditions, it is strongly discouraged to put them to the test on your own. It is also important to bear in mind that breast implants are not lifetime devices. They are prone to wear and tear over time. But if proper care and maintenance are observed, they can be exceedingly durable and will last longer than their predicted lifespan.