Detection of subclinical infection in significant breast implant capsules

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2003 Apr 15;111(5):1605-11. doi: 10.1097/01.PRS.0000054768.14922.44.


The pathogenesis of fibrous capsular contracture after augmentation mammaplasty is still debated. One hypothesis implicates low-grade bacterial infections as a cause. The presence of a staphylococcal biofilm in a patient with recurrent capsular contracture was previously reported. A comparative, prospective, blinded, clinical study of implants and capsules removed from patients with or without significant capsular contracture was conducted to investigate the association of biofilm contamination, breast implants, and capsular contracture. Capsule and implant samples obtained during explantation were tested by routine microbiological culture, sensitive broth culture (after maceration and sonication), and scanning electron microscopy. Clinical parameters were correlated with microbiological findings. A total of 48 implant and/or capsule samples were obtained from 27 breasts during a 22-month period. Of the 27 breasts, 19 exhibited significant contracture (Baker grade III/IV). The mean duration of implantation was 9.2 years (range, 0.4 to 26.0 years). Routine swab cultures obtained at the time of explantation were negative for bacterial growth for all samples. The sensitive broth culture technique yielded 24 positive samples (50 percent, n = 48). An analysis of capsules demonstrated that 17 of 19 samples obtained from patients with significant contracture were positive, compared with only one of eight samples obtained from patients with minimal or no contracture (p = 0.0006). Fourteen of the 17 positive cultures from significantly contracted breasts yielded coagulase-negative staphylococci, mainly, species of the Staphylococcus epidermidis group. The presence of coagulase-negative staphylococci was also significantly associated with capsular contracture (p = 0.01). There was no significant difference in the frequency of culture positivity for saline versus silicone implants (p = 0.885). Scanning electron microscopy confirmed the presence of extensive biofilm on implants and within capsules.Biofilm, in particular, S. epidermidis biofilm, was detected for a significant proportion of patients with capsular contracture. This implicates biofilm disease in the pathogenesis of contracture, and strategies for its prevention should be explored.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteriological Techniques
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Breast Implants / microbiology*
  • Contracture / diagnosis
  • Contracture / microbiology
  • Contracture / surgery
  • Device Removal
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / diagnosis*
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / microbiology
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / surgery
  • Reoperation
  • Staphylococcal Infections / diagnosis*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / surgery
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / growth & development*
  • Surface Properties