Procedures

Breast Implant Illness

Overview

Breast Implant Illness refers to symptoms that arise due to silicone toxicity.  It is sometimes referred to as Silicone Immune Toxicity Syndrome and results from the body producing antibodies against the molecular complex that forms when silicone attaches to protein molecules in various organs.  In some women, this may result in an autoimmune response.

Silicone gel breast implants are known to leach silicone.  Even though the shell of later generation silicone breast implants is manufactured with “low bleed” characteristics, this does not mean no bleed.  In addition, over time, the wall of the implant gradually deteriorates resulting in more silicone leaching through.  The silicone is fat soluble and so distributes throughout the fat in the body as well as in the liver and other organs. If the implant ruptures, even more silicone is released.

Most women are able to deal with a small load of toxic chemicals.  These chemicals are processed and eventually excreted in the bile or urine.  It is believed however, that once the load of silicone exceeds the body’s ability to deal with it in an effective manner, symptoms can develop.

Symptoms associated with Breast Implant Illness 

  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Hair loss
  • Memory loss
  • Foggy thinking
  • Night sweats
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Chemical sensitivities eg.to perfume, smoke and other inhalants
  • Muscle inflammation
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Other autoimmune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome, scleroderma, fibromayalgia

Some people, due to genetic differences, have a very poor ability to deal with toxins. These women can develop symptoms of Silicone Immune Toxicity Syndrome even within the first year after having their implants inserted.

It is important to note that the manufacturers of breast implants deny the existence of Silicone Immune Toxicity Syndrome, or Breast Implant Illness, as do many Plastic Surgeons.  However, the evidence for the existence of this syndrome is that many women report greatly enhanced wellbeing once their silicone breast implants have been removed.   When questioned closely, some women with silicone breast implants recognise that they may have a mild form of the illness but still see great benefits in retaining their breast implants.

In 2019, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA will be conducting a comprehensive review of silicone breast implants and this, hopefully, will produce some definitive answers.  In the meantime, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons need to be alert to the existence of this condition and to be aware that, for some women, removing their breast implants can result in considerable health benefits.

At Avenue Plastic Surgery, perhaps one of the best decisions made was to switch to the use of saline-filled implants about 26 years ago.  Although saline implants have silicone in their outer shell, this silicone is stable and does not leach out of the implant.  As expected, there is a negligible incidence of Breast Implant Illness in association with saline-filled breast implants.

Women who believe they are suffering from Breast Implant Illness are encouraged to have their silicone breast implants removed and replaced, either with saline implants or, preferably, with their own fat.  The procedure of breast augmentation by autologous fat transfer is now well established and is a most useful procedure both for women who wish to avoid implants altogether or for those having their implants removed and replaced.

At Avenue Plastic Surgery, our experience is that, following removal of the implants, most women experience better health and wellbeing. Most of their symptoms have gone or significantly lessened by six weeks following surgery. This will be determined by how long it takes for the silicone in their tissues to be eliminated.

Below is listed the most common signs and symptoms of Breast Implant Illness.  If you believe that you are suffering from these symptoms then you should discuss the matter with your surgeon.