Breast augmentation is one of the most popular surgical procedures in the United States, and yet it’s hardly a trivial affair.
Not only do these implants require lifelong maintenance and surveillance, some types have also been linked to a constellation of worrying systemic side effects, known collectively as breast implant illness (BII).
The good news? This syndrome appears easily reversible, at least from initial studies. Following the removal of either a silicone or saline implant, new research has shown a significant and sustained improvement in nearly a dozen of the most common BII symptoms.
Today, BII is poorly defined and barely understood, even now, nearly 60 years after we first started inserting these medical devices. In fact, it might surprise you to know that for the first three decades of their existence, there was absolutely no clinical trial conducted on breast implants at all.
In the decades since, scientists have connected these devices to a higher risk of developing a rare cancer of the immune system and inflammatory reactions, particularly for women with a family history of autoimmune conditions. Meanwhile, thousands of patients have complained of fatigue, brain fog, and other problems following implantation.
When these devices are removed, past research has found it can generally improve the syndrome, but this is the first study to dig into how specific symptoms change before and after implant removal.
While the study doesn’t examine cause-and-effect specifically, it does provide more evidence that removal of implants is somehow tied to BII symptoms.
The retrospective analysis examined 750 patients who had their breast implants completely removed by the same surgeon within a two-year period.
Accounting for symptoms before and after the ‘explantation’, the authors documented a demonstrable improvement in 11 common symptoms within the first 30 days of being implant-free. These include breast pain, hair loss, skin irritation, breathing issues, memory issues, and aches and pains.
Of course, none of this explains how these foreign objects actually trigger the many symptoms of breast implant illness, but there are hypotheses that suggest silicone breast implants can cause profound inflammation.
Not only can these devices rupture and leak inside the body, possibly even into the lymphatic system, they might also interfere with mammography, cause breast hardness, and disrupt the immune system.