Sonication of removed breast implants for improved detection of subclinical infection

Aesthetic Plast Surg. 2009 May;33(3):404-8. doi: 10.1007/s00266-009-9333-0. Epub 2009 Mar 26.


Background: Capsular fibrosis is a severe complication after breast implantation with an uncertain etiology. Microbial colonization of the prosthesis is hypothesized as a possible reason for the low-grade infection and subsequent capsular fibrosis. Current diagnostic tests consist of intraoperative swabs and tissue biopsies. Sonication of removed implants may improve the diagnosis of implant infection by detachment of biofilms from the implant surface.

Methods: Breast implants removed from patients with Baker grades 3 and 4 capsular contracture were analyzed by sonication, and the resulting sonication fluid was quantitatively cultured.

Results: This study investigated 22 breast implants (6 implants with Baker 3 and 16 implants with Baker 4 capsular fibrosis) from 13 patients. The mean age of the patients was 49 years (range, 31-76 years). The mean implant indwelling time was 10.4 years (range, 3 months to 30 years). Of the 22 implants, 12 were used for breast reconstruction and 10 for aesthetic procedures. The implants were located subglandularly (n = 12), submuscularly (n = 6), and subcutaneously (n = 4). Coagulase-negative staphylococci, Propionibacterium acnes, or both were detected in the sonication fluid cultures of nine implants (41%), eight of which grew significant numbers of microorganisms (>100 colonies/ml of sonication fluid).

Conclusions: Sonication detected bacteria in 41% of removed breast implants. The identified bacteria belonged to normal skin flora. Further investigation is needed to determine any causal relation between biofilms and capsular fibrosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biofilms
  • Breast Implants / adverse effects*
  • Breast Implants / microbiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / diagnosis*
  • Skin / microbiology
  • Sonication* / methods