Made of medical-grade silicone or saline, breast implants are FDA-approved medical devices that can improve breast size and shape during a cosmetic breast augmentation or replace tissue lost to cancer through reconstructive breast surgery.
Whatever your reason for considering breast implants, most women have a lot of questions about the benefits — and potential risks — that come with them. “Are breast implants safe?” is a question we hear often at Brooks Plastic Surgery in Hollywood, Florida.
To help you make a thoughtful and balanced decision about getting implants, cosmetic and reconstructive breast surgeon Christopher Brooks, MD, is committed to providing complete, clear, and current information that help you fully understand your risks.
Breast implant basics
Over 415,000 women in the United States got breast implants in 2018. About three in four women who received implants did so for cosmetic reasons, and one in four got them to restore normal appearance to their breasts following a mastectomy.
In the US, doctors can only offer saline or silicone gel implants that are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. All implant casings are made of silicone; silicone implants are filled with a different consistency of the same polymer, and saline implants contain a sterile saline solution.
Implants may be round or anatomical (teardrop-shaped). They can also be made with a smooth casing for more natural movement or a textured casing for a firmer feel.
Breast implant safety
All saline and silicone gel implants undergo extensive testing before they’re approved by the FDA and made available to breast augmentation or breast reconstruction patients in the US. As medical devices, FDA-approved implants demonstrate a “reasonable assurance” of their safety and effectiveness.
This means they’re made to maintain long-term structure and integrity, and the risk of experiencing complications or an adverse event like implant rupturing is low.
Independent medical researchers continue to study the safety and effectiveness of implants, and the FDA continues to monitor those results, conduct its own testing, and provide up-to-date guidelines on their benefits and potential risks.
The FDA also has a MedWatch program that tracks physician- and patient-reported problems with breast implants and publishes safety alerts.
Breast implant risks
Each year in the US, hundreds of thousands of women receive breast implants and report no adverse effects. But there are risks associated with all forms of surgery as well as all implanted medical devices, including breast implants.
The biggest risk for breast implant patients is developing local post-surgical complications, or temporary problems that emerge around the implant itself. This can include infection, breast pain, and altered nipple or breast sensation.
Less commonly, some women develop capsular contracture, a complication that occurs when thick scar tissue forms and tightens around the implant, distorting both its shape and the shape of your breast.
Because implants don’t last a lifetime, your risk of developing a more serious complication like implant leakage or rupture increases the longer you have your them. Even so, implant deflation or breakage are rare occurrences that only affect some 3% of implants.
Rare health problems
Women with breast implants also have a slight risk of developing an implant-related health problem like breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) or breast implant illness (BII).
BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer. It’s a rare implant-related cancer that can develop in the breast or scar tissue (capsule) surrounding the implant. While this highly treatable cancer can usually be resolved by removing the implant and its surrounding capsule, some women also require chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
BII is the term used with a wide-ranging set of symptoms — ranging from brain fog and chronic fatigue to joint and muscle pain — that some women report after getting breast implants. Experts are still trying to define BII and determine why a few women appear to develop it when many others don’t. For some women, symptoms disappear when implants are removed.
A personal decision
Getting breast implants is a highly personal decision that requires you to balance the benefits they offer with the risks they pose, even if those risks are relatively small.
As a plastic surgeon who’s dedicated to staying informed on the latest research, findings, and recommendations regarding breast implant safety, Dr. Brooks can help you understand those risks so you can make the decision that’s best for you.
Call 954-256-5838 to reach our office today, or click online to schedule an appointment with Dr. Brooks any time.