Infection in breast implants

Lancet Infect Dis. 2005 Feb;5(2):94-106. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(05)01281-8.


Infection is the leading cause of morbidity that occurs after breast implantation and complicates 2.0-2.5% of interventions in most case series. Two-thirds of infections develop within the acute post-operative period, whereas some infections may develop years or even decades after surgery. Infection rates are higher after breast reconstruction and subsequent implantation than after breast augmentation. Risk factors for infection associated with breast implantation have not been carefully assessed in prospective studies with long-term follow-up. Surgical technique and the patient's underlying condition are the most important determinants. In particular, breast reconstruction after mastectomy and radiotherapy for cancer is associated with a higher risk for infection. The origin of infection in women with implants remains difficult to determine, but potential sources include a contaminated implant, contaminated saline, the surgery itself or the surgical environment, the patient's skin or mammary ducts, or, as suggested by many reports, seeding of the implant from remote infection sites. Late infection usually results from secondary bacteraemia or an invasive procedure at a location other than breasts. Diagnostic and management strategies are proposed and the value of peri-operative surgical prophylaxis is revisited. The current hypothesis of the possible role of low-grade or subclinical infection in the origin of capsular contracture is also reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections / etiology*
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Breast Implants / adverse effects*
  • Breast Implants / microbiology
  • Contracture / epidemiology
  • Contracture / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / diagnosis
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / etiology*
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / microbiology
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / surgery