Breast implant infections after surgical reconstruction in patients with breast cancer: assessment of risk factors and pathogens over extended post-operative observation

Surg Infect (Larchmt). 2012 Jun;13(3):154-8. doi: 10.1089/sur.2011.004. Epub 2012 May 8.


Background: Infection is a severe potential complication of breast implant positioning in women with cancer. There still is some degree of uncertainty regarding optimal antibiotic prophylaxis regimens, infecting pathogens, and risk factors associated with infection during long-term followup of these patients.

Methods: We performed a systematic clinical review to assess infecting microorganisms and risk factors among patients undergoing reconstructive procedures for breast cancer between January 2005 and February 2007. A randomly selected group of infection-free patients treated over the same time span was considered as a control.

Results: Among 240 women undergoing implant procedures performed and followed up as outpatients, 16 patients with prosthetic infections were observed (infection rate 6.7%). Infection was recorded within six months from surgery in 94% of the cases, with an overall mean time to infection of 95 days. The time interval between surgery and infection did not support a diagnosis of hospital-acquired infection in most cases. Gram-negative microorganisms were identified in seven cases. A higher proportion of patients with implant infection underwent radiotherapy or chemotherapy after surgery for advanced tumors compared with the control patients without infection.

Conclusions: Extended post-operative surveillance is indicated, at least for the first six months after breast implant placement, particularly for women who need radiotherapy or chemotherapy after implant surgery. Gram-negative bacilli may be involved more often in late infections than otherwise expected. This finding may influence initial empiric antibiotic treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis / methods
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Breast Implants / adverse effects*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Care
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / microbiology*
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgical Wound Infection / microbiology
  • Time Factors