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Eur Radiol. 1999;9(2):349-55.

Imaging breasts with silicone implants.

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Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.


Over the last two decades, the use of breast implants both for breast augmentation and for breast reconstruction following mastectomy has increased substantially. It is estimated that around two million women have undergone breast augmentation, while hundreds of thousands have had breast reconstruction surgery. Different types of material have been used for breast implants, but silicone gel implants have been the dominating implant type. Many implants can lead to complications, such as hardening and rupture, and may therefore need in vivo evaluation by imaging, particularly if they lead to clinical symptoms. They can also pose problems in the assessment of surrounding breast tissue by conventional mammography. In this respect, imaging modalities such as ultrasound, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging offer greater possibilities to assess a failing implant, as well as surrounding breast tissue. Several factors, mainly of a psychological nature, lead to requests for breast implants. In this review article, only the imaging aspects of breasts with silicone gel implants will be dealt with. Each modality is concisely presented with its possibilities and limitations.

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