Fact or Fiction: Can Breast Implants Make You Sick?

False! Let’s talk about breast implant safety. If you are old enough to remember the Connie Chung-induced media frenzy in the 90s, you may know that silicone implants were taken off the market after there were concerns that the silicone could go systemically and cause a whole host of immune or inflammatory illnesses. Luckily, there were rigorous studies undertaken over the following decade, which definitively concluded that silicone implants are just as safe as saline. Unfortunately you can find all kinds of misleading information on the internet stating the contrary. Lots of "data" has been published showing where patients report having an illness that they associate with implants. The problem with this is 1. there often is no proof that this diagnosis has actually been made by a medical doctor, and 2. association does not mean causation.

Let's compare this to a personal example: I was sick this week. I had a sore throat and a terrible headache after being at the beach this weekend. I looked up my symptoms and guess what they matched— Strep Throat! Now I didn’t actually get tested for strep throat. And I’m pretty certain I didn’t get it “from the beach” though there was certainly exposure. But I could have reported to my friends in the neighborhood that I got strep throat from our beach. No? That doesn’t make any sense!! Because association does not equal causation! The point being---Dr. Google's diagnosis does not necessarily equate with a real diagnosis. Maybe it was just a virus. (Spoiler alert--it was!) Still afraid of silicone? What about those horrible stories of young women getting silicone injected into their buttocks and breasts for augmentation, who get hospitalized and suffer major complications (and occasionally even death). Is that the same thing?? Nope!

Free silicone, the stuff that salons and unscrupulous “practitioners” inject in back rooms is 1. Not medical grade and 2. Not encapsulated in a shell that is inert (doesn’t cause a reaction). Silicone Implants are medical grade, and contained in a shell. Well, Could the shell break? Sure! But one wonderful thing about our bodies: we form walls around foreign objects. So even when a silicone implant ruptures, it is often contained within the wall that your body has created. And if the ruptured silicone does manage to get outside that wall (called a capsule), it is thick enough (cohesive) that it won’t just seep into your tissues and blood stream and wreak havoc on your body. Obviously you’d want to get it out ASAP. But in normal conditions, that implant is sitting happy where your surgeon placed it, and is not causing you bodily harm. In all, silicone implants are a wonderful option for patients who either seek breast augmentation for cosmetic reasons, or for reconstructing a breast after mastectomy. They have been proven safe as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of women who undergo this procedure every year and do not suffer from mysterious illnesses. As with any elective surgery, talk to your friendly local plastic surgeon about any concerns you may have, so you can make the best informed choice that is right for you.

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