Saline Breast Implants: Can They Get Contaminated?

Is there a fungus among us?

Perhaps you have heard horror stories of saline or silicone breast implants becoming contaminated with a fungus or bacteria. Most women would agree that this sounds gross, not to mention frightening! Well, you can breathe a huge sigh of relief. While it is possible for breast implants to become contaminated, it is extremely uncommon risk given today's clean and sterile surgical techniques.

Here's the deal:

The salt water in saline implants is sterile. In the past, there were cases of fungal infection when saline implants were filled using an "open" or "open-basin" technique. During this technique, the saline came into direct contact with air. Using a syringe, the surgeon would fill the implants with water from an open bowl.

Today, surgeons employ a "closed" technique, which allows the saline to be injected directly from the bag into the implant without exposure to air. This helps keep the implant contamination free.

All of this happens, of course, prior to the actual surgery. Therefore, the only point at which contamination could occur is during your breast augmentation surgery. But if the saline breast implant is sterile when it is inserted, it won't become contaminated once placed in the body. Put another way: If it goes in clean, it should stay that way.

Even in cases where the implants were contaminated because of the open technique, no one became ill. Still, the best way to protect yourself from this threat is to ask your surgeon if he or she uses the closed technique for breast augmentation.

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    Ronald H. Schuster, MD


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    Joshua A. Greenwald, MD, FACS

    Cosmetic Surgery Associates of New York
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    Joshua A. Greenwald, MD, FACS

    Cosmetic Surgery Associates of New York
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