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Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants

ISSN Print: 1050-6934
ISSN Online: 1940-4379

Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants

DOI: 10.1615/JLongTermEffMedImplants.v16.i1.80
pages 71-82

Scanning Electron Microscope Fractography of Induced Fatigue-Damaged Saline Breast Implants

Harold J. Brandon
Center for Implant Retrieval and Analysis of Plastic Surjery Devices, Department of Plastic Surgery; Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Washington University, One Brooking Drive, St. Louis, Missouri, MO 63130-4899, USA
Kenneth L. Jerina
Center for Implant Retrieval and Analysis, Dept. of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
T. L. Savoy
Dept. of Plastic Surgery, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Clarence J. Wolf
Center for Implant Retrieval and Analysis, Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

ABSTRACT

Breast implant strength and durability is presently an important topic in biomaterials science. Research studies are being conducted to determine the mechanisms and rates of failure in order to assess the in vivo performance of breast implants. Fatigue life is a measure of breast implant durability since fatigue failure is a potential in vivo failure mechanism. This study describes the characterization of the fracture surface morphology of breast implant shell regions that have failed due to cyclic fatigue. Saline breast implants were fatigue tested to failure using a laboratory apparatus in which flat plates cyclically compressed the implants. The implants were unimplanted control devices of both textured and smooth saline implants. The failure surfaces of the fatigued shells were examined using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The morphological features of the failure surfaces are described for implants with short and long fatigue lifetimes. The details of both the inside and outside surfaces of the shell at the failure location are described. Two different modes of failure were observed in both the textured and smooth shells. These modes depend on the magnitude of the cyclic load and corresponding number of fatigue cycles at failure. The first mode is a tear in the shell of about 18 mm in length, and the second mode is a pinhole approximately 1 mm in diameter. Details of the surface morphology for these two types of failure modes and shell thickness data are presented herein. There was no significant change in the crosslink density of the shell as a result of fatigue.