Detection of subclinical infection in significant breast implant capsules

Aniko Pajkos, Anand K. Deva*, Karen Vickery, Charles Cope, Lionel Chang, Yvonne E. Cossart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

327 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1605-1611
Number of pages7
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2003


Dive into the research topics of 'Detection of subclinical infection in significant breast implant capsules'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this