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Monday, September 14, 2009 Dealing, Community Member, asks

Q: can breast tissue expander cause a broken rib

I have tissue expanders for breast reconstruction.  Since the last expanison I can't take a deep breath, cough or sneeze without feeling like something is stabbing my right lung.

i had fractured a rib years ago on the upper right side. could the pressure from the expander have caused the rib to break?

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Answers (3)
Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
9/14/09 6:36pm

I don't know if your pain is caused by the tissue expander, but this sounds like an issue that needs to be brought to your doctor's attention soon than later.  The problem could be in your rib, but it could also be in your lung.  Please call the doctor tomorrow (or today if there is still time in your time zone).

Survivor60, Community Member
9/15/12 4:21pm

I had a bi-lateral mastectomy and reconstruction is in progress.

I have one expander that is pushing in on my ribs and my plastic surgeon has informed me that when I get the permanent implants, my (fake) breasts will be two different sizes???

What? If they are creating them why can't they put in different size implants to compensate for the differences in the chest wall cavities?


I read survivor3 was having a similar experince and wonder how it turned out for her

Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
9/15/12 4:49pm

It seems reasonable to me that the implants could be adjusted to make both sides even, but I'm not a plastic surgeon.  There may be some reason I don't understand why your specific case will make it impossible to have both sides the same.  Before I settled for that answer, though, I would want a second opinion from another plastic surgeon.  

It has been over a year since survivor3 wrote in.  You can click on her name and send her a personal email to try to contact her.  I wish you well as you continue with reconstruction.

Angi, Community Member
9/17/09 12:48pm

This is actually quite common with expanders, especially if they are near full or if you have the larger capacity ones.  I had a sharp stabbing pain in my shoulder blade from the expander pushing against everything.  I also had 2 fractured ribs that hurt.  But once he swapped out those expanders for the implants the pain was gone and I'm very happy with the results now.  By all means, consult with your doctor, but he'll likely tell you the same thing.  Rib fractures though painful, will heal just fine on their own.  You can try ice packs or heating pads along with Tylenol for pain.  Try to bear with it if you can, as you're close to the finish line.

Good luck!


Carey, Community Member
12/30/09 11:51am

Angi..was the broken rib caused by the expanders..I just had my next to last fill and having terrible pain under my right breast. This is not the same pain as before...it is pretty severe.Thanks Carey

Angi, Community Member
12/31/09 2:17am

yes, it was caused from the expander pushing downwards on the ribs.

Survivor3, Community Member
1/28/11 2:43pm

I just left a thoracic surgeons office. After 9 months of my plastic surgeon ignoring my weekly complaints and blowing off my questions...I have 5 fractured ribs! He has basically labeled me a drug seeker and refused to order more meds. Now that he knows he is so very sorry. Too late for me though. SO yes! They can be fractured. I have five at various stages of healing, meaning they were all probably broken at different times. Trust your body and go for as many opinions as it takes. It took 3 more opnions to find the truth. Have a CT scan done at a cardiothoracic surgeons office. They know what to look for. My chest was also "caved in 3 inches" per my plastic surgeon when they removed the expanders they discovered that too. I extremely encourage you to if you are on Arimidex or similar! Hope you find out before it's too late, like I didn't do. Best of luck to you.

Survivor 4, Community Member
9/27/11 9:18pm

I am curious to know whether your chest wall reverted back to normalcy after removal of the expanders.  I had two rib fractures and my pulmonologist said my chest wall is concave, pushing on ribs and lung.  I saw a cardiologist and pulmonologist because I was (still am) so short of breath. They found the fractured ribs on lung CAT scan.What really burned me was that my plastic surgeon said he'd never heard of fractured ribs in the context of tissue expanders. He seemed totally unconcerned.  At this point, I'm consulting another plastic surgeon!

Thank you for sharing your info.   

Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
9/28/11 5:31am

Survivor 4, I'm so sorry that your plastic surgeon ignored your pain.  At least you got to the right doctors to get it diagnosed.  It's been 9 months since Survivor 3 posted, so you might want to click on her name and send her a private message if she doesn't respond to your post here.  She may not see it.  I hope your ribs heal and that you soon feel better.  Most people report feeling much better once the real implant goes in.

PJ Hamel, Health Guide
9/28/11 4:50pm

Survivor, if you're a breast cancer survivor, make sure your oncologist knows about your fractured ribs. Unfortunately, a rib fracture can be a sign of possible metastasis; so just be sure everyone who needs to know about this does, OK? Take care- PJH

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By Dealing, Community Member— Last Modified: 09/15/12, First Published: 09/14/09