Breast implants should come with ‘illness’ warning: plastic surgeon07/23/2019
Breast implant illness may not be a medically recognized condition, but some surgeons say the cosmetic procedure should now come with a warning.
Those who claim to suffer from the mysterious illness report symptoms that mimic other autoimmune disorders, such as muscle pain, fatigue, digestive issues, inflammation, weakness, hair loss and cognitive difficulties, often referred to as “brain fog” — all of which, breast implant illness (BII) proponents believe, are tied to their silicone implants.
Back in March, the Food and Drug Administration issued a broad statement to all medical device manufacturers that more long-term testing should be done. They go on to call out BII specifically: “While the FDA doesn’t have definitive evidence suggesting breast implants are associated with these conditions, we’re looking to gain a fuller understanding of this issue to communicate risk, minimize harm and help in the treatment of affected patients.”
Now, a growing number of claims in the UK has pushed their Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to probe further into the issue.
“It’s entirely reasonable that book should be opened again now, and we and our advisory group are already looking at the evidence around this,” a spokesperson said in a recent statement. “We would be eager to learn more from patients about their experiences in this area.”
Nora Nugent, a cosmetic surgery consultant with the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), told the BBC‘s Victoria Derbyshire, “Surgeons should be warning patients about breast implant illness.”
“Patients need the most up-to-date information possible, with the caveat that breast implant illness is poorly understood,” she says. “So it’s going to be difficult to give absolute information.”
That certainly wasn’t the case for Sia Cooper, who had her 32DDD implants removed eight years after getting them. For years after surgery, Cooper says she felt “helpless” as her health declined with no plausible diagnosis from a doctor. It wasn’t until she found reports online from other breast augmentation patients with similar symptoms that she learned about the alarming phenomenon.
She says her plastic surgeon never mentioned the possibility of BII. “I took my doctor for his word,” says Cooper, who claims her health has been on the mend since removing her implants.
Dr. Alyssa Golas, assistant professor of plastic surgery at NYU Langone, agrees that the medical community “definitely needs to learn more” about BII, but says there’s “[no] reason at this point to change practices.”
If a patient seems particularly concerned over potential silicone implant leakage, she recommends implants filled with saline instead, wherein the salt-water solution is simply absorbed by the body. Even so, she reiterates there’s little risk associated with silicone rupture, adding, “It’s something a lot of people are afraid of, but there’s no evidence it causes harm.”
Dr. Anne Peled, a board-certified plastic surgeon in San Francisco, is seeing surgeons like herself “take [BII] more seriously than we used to.” She says both the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery are “encouraging members to put patients into the National Breast Implant Registry (NBIR),” which would help researchers track long-term side effects of implants while also pushing the groups’ research arms to conduct further study.
Peled, who is not a spokesperson for either organization, echoes doctors and researchers who say tying these “variable” symptoms directly to breast implants will be difficult: “It’s not like other illnesses with a clear set of symptoms.”
She adds, “Most woman who get breast implants do well with them.”
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