The life span of silicone gel breast implants and a comparison of mammography, ultrasonography, and magnetic resonance imaging in detecting implant rupture: a meta-analysis

Ann Plast Surg. 1998 Dec;41(6):577-85; discussion 585-6. doi: 10.1097/00000637-199812000-00001.


Because of the growing concern surrounding the integrity and life span of silicone gel breast implants and the reported variations in the diagnostic accuracy of various imaging techniques in identifying ruptured implants, the authors undertook a meta-analysis of articles in the scientific literature to examine these concerns. They were able to include reports from the literature that detailed the condition and removal of 1,099 breast implants during the past 7 years. The median life span of a silicone gel implant was estimated to be 16.4 years. Of the implants, 79.1% were intact at 10 years, falling to 48.7% by 15 years. The sensitivities and specificities of three imaging modalities used in the diagnosis of implant rupture (mammography, ultrasonography, and magnetic resonance imaging [MRI]) were also evaluated and compared statistically in an effort to discover which of the three techniques might serve as the most reliable screening tool in the diagnosis of gel implant rupture. The sensitivity of mammography for finding a ruptured implant is 28.4% with a specificity of 92.9%. Ultrasonography has a sensitivity and specificity of 59.0% and 76.8% respectively compared with MRI, which was 78.1% and 80.0% respectively. For implants in place for 10 years, one would need to image 3.3 implants by ultrasound to identify a single possible rupture. However, because of the 76.8% specificity, 8.1 implants would need to be imaged to find a confirmed intraoperative rupture. This was similar to MRI, in which 3.1 implants would need to be imaged to detect one suspected rupture, and 6.1 implants would need to be imaged to find one intraoperatively confirmed rupture. The authors do not recommend either ultrasound or MRI as a screening tool based on their meta-analysis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Breast Implants*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mammography
  • Prosthesis Failure
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Silicone Gels
  • Ultrasonography, Mammary


  • Silicone Gels