How Safe Are Silicone Implants?January 20, 2016
If you’re a fan of reality television, you have likely heard a recent story surrounding Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Yolanda Foster, her battle with Lyme disease, and her unrelenting search to find a cure to what ails her. Not only has she had all of her metal fillings removed from her teeth because she fears they are toxic, the most recently aired episode chronicles her journey to Cincinnati where she undergoes breast explantation. She wrote in an Instagram post, “We might have hit the jackpot by finding all this silicone from a 20 year old implant rupture through ultrasound mapping…” It can’t help but raise the question, just how safe are silicone implants?
You may also recall the “implant scare” in the early 1990’s during which women were concerned that ruptured silicone implants were causing connective tissues disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The implants in question at the time were what we describe as ‘second generation’ silicone implants, which were liquid in consistency, had thin shells, and did have the potential to leak free silicone. Despite widespread use of silicone implants in breast reconstruction, and no data to support the claims, silicone implants for cosmetic use were removed from the market and wouldn’t be brought back until 2006!
It has taken several years to prove the safety of silicone gel, making silicone breast implants the single most studied medical device in the history of medicine. Beginning in the mid 1980s, “good manufacturing practices” were applied to breast-implant production, including standardization of materials (stronger shells and improved gels), and other strict safety protocols. Each generation of devices was better and stronger than their predecessors.
The silicone gel breast implants most recently approved by the FDA are fifth-generation implants, much different than the implants that were removed from the market in 1992. This generation is made of a solid silicone that does not leak and has the consistency of a gummy bear. If you cut it in half, it keeps its form. It has the lowest recorded risk of capsular contracture rates in the history of implants. Not only are these implants safer – proven over and again by undeniable data generated by multiple significant scientific studies – they are also stronger. Not to mention they have been quickly accepted by Board Certified Plastic Surgeons nationwide.
Suffice it to say, if Yolanda had an earlier generation implant, there is a possibility she had free silicone in her body. The likelihood that it was contributing to her illness is considerably small, but none the less, we hope she is feeling more like herself since her recent surgery. The lesson here is that if you are considering breast surgery, you can rest assured that the implant technology we have today far exceeds that of years past, and implants are far safer today than they once were.