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Breast implant infections

Tahaniyat Lalani, MBBS, MHS
Michael R Zenn, MD, FACS
Daniel J Sexton, MD
Section Editor
Stephen B Calderwood, MD
Deputy Editor
Allyson Bloom, MD


Breast augmentation (also called augmentation mammoplasty) is the most common type of cosmetic surgery procedure in the United States, with over 290,000 procedures being performed in 2016. This figure represents a 37 percent increase from 2000 [1]. Breast implants are performed both for breast enlargement, as above, and, in women who have undergone mastectomy for breast cancer, for breast reconstruction.

Today, silicone implants are the gold standard and used by most surgeons. Saline filled breast implants used to be the main prostheses used for breast augmentation. Although silicone gel implants provide a more natural appearance and feel, unfounded concerns about risk of connective tissue disease associated with silicone implants led to a moratorium on their use in the United States in 1992. This was lifted in November 2006, after further studies led to the conclusion that silicone gel implants expose patients to no demonstrable risk for connective tissue or rheumatologic disease. (See "Implant-based breast reconstruction and augmentation".)

Both silicone and saline implants have the disadvantages that additional surgery may be necessary, since the implants do not last a lifetime, and that periodic imaging studies may be needed to determine if implant rupture has occurred.

Breast implants in reconstruction are sometimes placed following the use of a tissue expander. In addition, acellular dermal matrix is often used as an adjunct to tissue expander and breast implant reconstructions. This matrix may assist in the shaping of the reconstructive breast and allow tissue expanders to be filled to higher volumes [2].

Issues related to breast implant infections will be reviewed here. Breast cellulitis, which is another form of breast infection related to breast cancer surgery, is discussed separately. (See "Breast cellulitis and other skin disorders of the breast".)

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 17, 2017.
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