“Breast Implant Illness”

“Breast Implant Illness”

“Breast Implant Illness”

We are getting frequent questions about “Breast Implant Illness” because of press and social media coverage. Some patients who have breast implants are requesting their removal, while some who are considering breast augmentation have concerns over what they are hearing or reading.

Breast Implant Illness FAQ

What is “Breast Implant Illness?”

Breast Implant Illness is not a technical medical diagnosis but rather a general term coined by women who are experiencing physical symptoms they feel may be related to their breast implants. The increase of reports over the last few years appears to be directly tied to online presence – the breast implant illness Facebook group, for instance, has grown to over 70,000 members.

Symptoms described include fatigue, chest pain, hair loss, chills, photosensitivity, rash, chronic pain, anxiety, brain fog, difficulty sleeping, depression, and hormonal issues.

Can you test for breast implant illness?

So far, there is no diagnostic testing for breast implant illness. Tests for autoimmune diseases can be performed to evaluate potential causes for a patient’s symptoms. Some patients have symptoms they attribute to their breast implants who have positive immune testing, while others shown no abnormalities at all.

Is there data showing causation between breast implants and these symptoms?

The 1999 review performed by the Institute of Medicine Committee on the Safety of Silicone concluded there was no demonstrated link between silicone breast implants and any systemic illness. Numerous studies over the years have looked at safety of breast implants and any relation to autoimmune disorders and diseases, and few-to-no-links have been found between breast implants and any diseases.

Studies of patients who have reported these symptoms have also not shown any consistent laboratory abnormalities that could define a distinct syndrome. Because of this, there has not been much specific research on “breast implant illness.”

Will removal of breast implants improve or cure a patient who has been medically diagnosed with a disease like autoimmune disease?

To date, there are no studies which show which exact symptoms may or may not improve specifically with implant removal. That said, studies have shown varying degrees of improvement in a range of patients’ symptoms after the removal of breast implants, with some patients experiencing permanent resolution of specific issues.

Currently, there is no definitive epidemiological evidence to support a direct link between breast implants and any specific disease process. That being said, it doesn’t mean further research isn’t warranted – it can take years to come to a scientific conclusion with rare or unusual diseases. Because there are many factors that can affect the interaction between a patient and her breast implants, further study is needed to determine how best to screen a patient and determine which of her symptoms may be improved with implant and capsule removal. 

It is important for my patient considering breast implant removal to understand the process involved. In general, both the implant and the surrounding capsule are removed in total. This requires careful dissection around the capsule through a long incision. The length of surgery can be as much as three hours or more, (compared to one hour for a breast augmentation). The cosmetic result can vary from fair to poor. Insurance will not usually cover implant removal.

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