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Plast Reconstr Surg. 1997 Jul;100(1):182-96.

Microbial growth inside saline-filled breast implants.

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Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Mo., USA.


In vitro and in vivo experiments were conducted to determine whether intraluminal saline in breast implants can support the growth of common wound-infecting microorganisms over a prolonged period of time. The bacteria tested were Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Escherichia coli, Corynebacterium jeikeium, Enterobacter cloacae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Three fungal species also were tested: Aspergillus fumigatus, Paecilomyces variotii, and Candida albicans. In the in vitro study, four organisms survived in flasks of sterile saline for the 2 weeks in which serial cultures were performed: K. pneumoniae, C. albicans, A. fumigatus, and P. variotii. In the in vivo study, 61 white rabbits (122 implants) received both an experimental implant inoculated with one of the test organisms and a control implant containing only sterile saline. They were sacrificed at 1-, 3-, or 6-month scheduled endpoints. None of the control implants containing sterile saline had positive cultures. In contrast, the intraluminal saline was culture positive for 7 of the 10 inoculated organisms after varying lengths of time: S. epidermidis, E. coli, E. cloacae, K. pneumoniae, P. aeruginosa, A. fumigatus, and P. variotii. Samples of capsular tissue also were cultured. Of the 122 capsular tissue specimens, 21 (17 percent) had positive cultures and surrounded both inoculated and sterile implants. In most instances, capsules that were culture positive contained an organism different from the one that had been inoculated in the group. In only 3 cases was the same organism cultured from both the periprosthetic tissue and the intraluminal saline, and these may represent instances of the inoculated organism migrating through the implants filler valves. The data show that several types of bacteria (particularly gram-negative species) and fungi can grow and reproduce in a restricted saline environment for extended periods of time.

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