Breast augmentation remains one of the most common surgical procedures performed today and for my patients and myself probably one of the most rewarding. The recent health care scare involving PIP implants has therefore been disturbing and has highlighted again the subject of exactly “how safe are breast implants actually?”Late last year concerns about breast implants have emerged since news of a major investigation into them in France, where PIP (Poly Implant Prosthesis) implants have been found to contain inferior industrial grade silicone that does not adhere to the quality of medical grade silicone. PIP gained approval to market silicone implants in 1997, but it is not clear when they began using a cheap type of silicone gel intended for making mattresses. The French authorities previously advised that PIP implants used after 2001 may have been made with unauthorized silicone. However they have recently reported those implants made before 2001 may also have defective silicone.

Inspection was prompted by sudden increase in reported incidents (mainly rupture) involving these implants over the past 3 years. In these cases where the industrial silicone leaked into the tissue of breast augmentation patients – they presented with pain and redness of the breasts and in severe cases breast distortion.

It has been revealed that they may be 3-4x more prone to rupture and leakage than other implants. New research published in the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery has found that 7-12 years after implantation the failure rate for PIP implants is in the region of 15-33% vs previous failure rates to other implants of 2-5%.

Initially reports also linked the implants to a rare form of cancer known as ALCC. This cancer link has been now firmly discounted by medical experts.