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Breast Implant-Related Illness in 2019: The Current Research and Treatment Options

Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Whitfield consults with many patients at his Austin, TX office who are considering breast implant removal. The decision to undergo this procedure is ultimately a personal one and the reasons vary. While some patients simply prefer a different aesthetic over time, others seek implant removal due to the development of uncomfortable symptoms.

This set of symptoms is commonly referred to as “breast implant-related illness.” While most patients with breast implants have no adverse reactions, there is a small subset of patients who continue to report declining health after breast augmentation.

These claims have prompted the FDA to take a closer look. On March 15, 2019, the FDA issued a press release regarding potential safety issues related to medical devices, such as breast implants.

To help you learn more, this guide explores the current research on this topic, why women opt for implant removal, and how to take the next step if you believe you’re affected by breast implant-related illness.

Exploring the Scientific Evidence for Breast Implant-Related Illness

As the press release states, it has been difficult to find a scientific link between breast implants and illness because:

“In the small subsets of patients who have reported these symptoms, the symptoms may not develop for several years following implantation. As a result, they may not be detected even in larger and longer clinical studies…Moreover, when reported, they have tended to be limited to small subsets of patients.”

However, the press release points out that a growing body of evidence suggests “a small number of patients may have biological responses to certain types of materials in implantable or insertable devices. For example, they develop inflammatory reactions and tissue changes causing pain and other symptoms that may interfere with their quality of life.”

What Does This Mean for Patients Currently Experiencing Breast Implant Illness?

The current research is suggesting that breast implants aren’t necessarily unsafe, but rather, a certain subset of patients are predisposed to developing adverse reactions to them.

Based on ongoing evaluations and discussions with experts, the press release states that, “the current evidence, although limited, suggests some individuals may be predisposed to develop an immune/inflammatory reaction when exposed to select materials.”

In any case, this extra attention by the FDA shines some much-needed light on the issue. Dr. Whitfield is dedicated to learning more about how to help this subset of patients, and he recently participated in the General and Plastic Surgery Devices Panel. As referenced in the FDA’s press release, this panel is a two-day public meeting that is part of the ongoing assessment of long-term health effects of various materials, including those used in breast implants.

Are Your Breast Implants Making you Sick?

Women who feel their health has declined after breast augmentation often report the following symptoms:

  • chronic fatigue
  • brain fog and memory loss
  • aches and pains
  • hair loss
  • heart palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • night sweats
  • rashes
  • insomnia

If you’ve developed similar symptoms, Dr. Whitfield would be happy to meet with you for a consultation to determine if implant removal is right for you.

What are the Treatment Options? Should you Have Your Implants Removed?

Although there currently isn’t a definitive link between breast implants and illness yet, Dr. Whitfield strives to help women restore their well-being after breast augmentation. Whether you feel you are suffering from breast implant-related illness or you simply don’t want implants anymore, there are many treatment options available.

Here are some of the most common reasons why breast implants cause discomfort and how implant removal can resolve these symptoms:

Top Reasons for Breast Implant Removal

1. Infection

Some women develop skin rashes, fatigue, and swollen glands after their breast augmentation. In many cases, these symptoms are the result of an infection. During the implant removal procedure, Dr. Whitfield takes cultures to determine if there is an active infection that needs to be treated. Patients often see a significant improvement in their well-being after implant removal and treatment for infection.

2. Capsular Contracture

Capsular contracture is a rare condition that can occur after breast augmentation. A pocket of scar tissue naturally forms around implants, but in cases of capsular contracture, the scar tissue becomes excessive and constricts tightly around the implant.

While the condition is not dangerous, severe cases can distort the implant. Capsular contracture can also cause symptoms commonly associated with breast implant-related illness, including nerve pain and shoulder dysfunction.

Dr. Whitfield has helped many patients regain comfort by removing their implants and surrounding scar tissue. In these cases, the implant capsule is also sent to pathology to rule out any additional causes of painful symptoms.

3. Implant Malposition

Implant malposition, which is when the implant shifts from its intended area, may develop after augmentation. This rare condition isn’t harmful, but it makes the breasts look distorted. They might appear too high, too low, too close together, and they can develop unnatural-looking bulges. Implant malposition can also cause pain or discomfort. Breast implant removal (with or without replacement) can successfully restore an attractive appearance to the breasts and resolve discomfort.

What Will My Breasts Look Like After Removal?

Dr. Whitfield understands that women have concerns about what their breasts will look like after the procedure. He will create a customized treatment plan to ensure you’ll love the way you look after implant removal.

If your breasts have developed skin laxity, Dr. Whitfield can pair the procedure with a breast lift to restore natural, youthful-looking contours.

View before-and-after photos of breast implant removal patients in Austin, TX:

What to Expect from Recovery

Every patient heals differently, but in general, it takes anywhere from 1-4 weeks to recover from breast implant removal. Patients suffering from suppressed immune symptoms due to breast implant-related illness may require a longer recovery. Before your procedure, Dr. Whitfield will provide you with post-op instructions to follow so you can maximize your recovery period.

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Because no two individuals are the same, cosmetic enhancement must be approached with meticulous precision and personalized care.

Widely recognized as being one of the finest board-certified plastic surgeons practicing in Texas.