Breast augmentation is among the most popular surgical procedures in the United States alone, but it is a rather serious affair. Not only these implants need lifelong maintenance and surveillance, but some kinds have also been associated with a plethora of concerning systemic side effects, known as breast implant illness (BII).
Fortunately, this syndrome seems to be reversible, at least according to initial studies. After the removal of either a silicone or saline implant, new research has demonstrated a major and sustained improvement in almost a dozen of the most common BII symptoms.
What is BII?
Currently, BII is poorly defined and not that understood, even after almost 60 years since the medical industry first started inserting these implants. As a matter of fact, for the first three decades of their existence, there was no clinical trial conducted on breast implants at all!
In the following decades, researches have associated these devices to an increased risk of developing a rare type of cancer of the immune system and inflammatory reactions, especially for women with a family history of autoimmune conditions. In the meantime, thousands of patients have reported fatigue, brain fog, and other issues after the implantation.
Following the removal of these devices, past research has revealed it can generally enhance the syndrome, but this is the first study to examine how specific symptoms change before and after the device is removed.
Although the research doesn’t dig into the cause-and-effect in particular, it does provide more evidence that the removal of implants is linked to BII manifestations. The analysis examined 750 patients who had their breast implants removed by the same surgeon within a two-year-period.
When it comes to the symptoms before and after the ‘explantation,’ the scientists recorded a demonstrable improvement in 11 common symptoms within the first 30 days of having no implant. These include breast pain, hair loss, skin irritation, breathing problems, memory issues, and aches and pains.
The Immune System is Involved
There are numerous theories that suggest breast implants can cause severe inflammation, can rupture and leak inside the body, possibly even into the lymphatic system, mess with mammography, cause breast hardness, and destroy the immune system.
“The study demonstrated a strong association of explantation and specific symptom improvement within the patient population studied,” the authors write. “Future investigation will further elucidate possible biologic phenomena to better characterize the pathophysiology and mechanism of BII.”
Moreover, the study found little difference in symptom relief after the removal of silicone or saline implants. Removing either one helped improve the overall health of the patient, mainly because the layers of most saline implants also contain silicone.
The patients with implants who reported capsular contraction, which is a tightening of the chest that can trigger breast pain, muscle aches, and difficult breathing, had the best improvement rate after the explantation. This supports the idea that the immune system is involved.
There’s still a lot we don’t know or can’t say for sure, but the findings are a great place to start. One of the reasons breast implants are so difficult to study is the spread of numerous types on the market, and some appear to have greater risks than others.
The research has been published in the Annals of Plastic Surgery.