What is Breast Implant Sickness?

Breast implant sickness is a difficult topic, but of interest/concerns to patients with breast implant or in individuals considering undergoing a breast augmentation. Breast implant sickness has been described as a collection of symptoms that range in severity. The symptoms include but are not limited to fatigue, weakness, body and joint aches among others.

Currently there is no defined diagnosis of breast implant sickness. There is also no test to diagnosis breast implant sickness.

Historically, there were concerns of this type of sickness in 1992 when silicone implants were removed from the market in the United States. During the 14 year period until they were brought back on the market in 2006, breast implant have been one of the most studied medical devices on the market. During that time studies were not able to show a correlation between breast implants and any type of illness. Thus, the decision was made to make silicone breast implants available to patients as they have several benefits over saline breast implants.

The FDA and plastic surgeons continue to evaluate the safety of breast implants. The concept of breast implant sickness has been very difficult to evaluate as the symptoms vary greatly in presentation and severity. It also has been relatively rare entity which makes studies of breast implant sickness extremely difficult.

Breast implant sickness could be caused by a variety of etiologies. Some theories include a sensitivity to the breast implants (silicone shell), others relate to a biofilm that may be surrounding the breast implant. At this point the cause, incidence and treatment of breast implant sickness needs to be evaluated.

It is important for patients who are concerned that they may have breast implant sickness need to be evaluated by a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon that can guide them through this difficult and complex topic. There is no test or way to diagnosis breast implant sickness and thus it is impossible currently to know if a patients’ symptoms will completely resolve with breast implant removal.

Breast implant sickness has recently been treated with en-bloc breast implant removal (complete removal of the implant and breast implant capsule as one object). Currently there is no evidence that this treatment leads to improved outcomes over implant removal alone. This is a topic that will need to be evaluated over time to make sure that patients are being treated effectively and safely. It is important to discuss these treatment options with your plastic surgeon to determine the best treatment plan.

Breast implant sickness is a very complex topic and needs further research. The better understanding the medical field has about this topic the better patients can be treated. The treatment can be tailored to the specific cause of patients symptoms. We also need to work toward evidence based treatments for breast implant sickness so that patients can be treated effectively and safely.

Please consult with Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon if you have any concerns about your breast implants or would like to be evaluated for breast implant sickness.

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