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N Engl J Med. 1997 Mar 6;336(10):677-82.

Complications leading to surgery after breast implantation.

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  • 1Division of Rheumatology and Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.



Local complications that require additional surgical procedures are an important problem for women with breast implants.


We studied 749 women who lived in Olmsted County, Minnesota, and received a first breast implant at the Mayo Clinic between 1964 and 1991. We identified complications that occurred after the initial procedure and after any subsequent implantation. A complication was defined as a surgical procedure performed for any of the following reasons: capsular contracture; rupture of the implant; hematoma or bleeding; infection or seroma of the wound; chronic pain; extrusion, leakage, or sweating of the implant; necrosis of the nipple, areola, or flap; malfunction of the filler port of a tissue expander; and wound dehiscence.


During follow-up (mean, 7.8 years; range, 0 to 25.8), 208 (27.8 percent) of the women underwent 450 additional implant-related surgical procedures. Ninety-one (20.2 percent) were anticipated, staged procedures or were done because the patient requested a size change or aesthetic improvement, and 359 procedures (79.8 percent) had at least one clinical indication (thus constituting a complication). Complications occurred in 178 (23.8 percent) of the 749 women and involved 274 (18.8 percent) of the 1454 breasts with implants and 321 (18.8 percent) of the 1703 implants. The most frequent problem was capsular contraction (272 cases), followed by rupture of the implant (60), hematoma (55), and wound infection (23). The rate of complications was significantly lower (P<0.001) among women with cosmetic implants (6.5 percent at one year, 12 percent at five years) than among women who underwent implantation after mastectomy for breast cancer (21.8 percent at one year, 34 percent at five years) or prophylactic mastectomy (17.3 percent at one year, 30.4 percent at five years).


Women who have had breast implantation frequently experience local complications during the subsequent five years. Complications were significantly less frequent among patients who received implants for cosmetic reasons than among those who received implants after mastectomy for cancer or for cancer prophylaxis.

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