With the topic of breast implant illness making the rounds in the news, whether you've had augmentation surgery or are considering it in the future, you need some answers.

We caught up with Dr. Eric Wright, an experienced and board-certified plastic surgeon at Wright Plastic Surgery, to get to the bottom of BII.

 

What is breast implant illness?

Women with a history of breast augmentation or reconstruction with implants that have reported health changes or systemic symptoms now use the term breast implant illness (BII) to explain their current condition. Symptoms can include inflammatory changes, arthritis, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, muscle pain and weakness. Some women have reported an increased incidence of autoimmune diseases or worsening of a serious health condition after breast implant procedures have been performed. 

Operative management for patients concerned they are experiencing BII include removal of the implants and surrounding capsule. Ongoing research is being performed to further explore the connection of implants and the development of BII. 

 

How do I know if I have BII?

Currently, there are no definitive tests that can determine whether implants are the cause of the symptoms. Initial evaluation of patients experiencing symptoms include a physical exam and comprehensive laboratory testing in conjunction with her primary care physician or rheumatologist to rule out other known medical conditions that can be managed. Due to the lack of definitive diagnosing ability, it is appropriate to explore all other possibilities before contributing the symptoms to breast implants. 

 

Is BII connected to breast cancer?

BII is a separate condition than breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). BIA-ALCL is a type of cancer that has been found around breast implants. This is not a type of breast cancer, but a cancer of the immune system that has been found around both saline and silicone textured implants. Though found with all brands of textured implants, one company has recalled their textured implant from the market due to a higher rate of development of BIA-ALCL in patients. 

Symptoms of BIA-ALCL include breast enlargement or swelling, pain, palpable lumps or skin rashes. Evaluation by a physician includes an exam with imaging to evaluate for fluid or masses around the implant. If found to have BIA-ALCL, further management includes a multi-disciplinary team approach with removal of the implant and surrounding capsule.

 

If I'm considering implants, should I be concerned?

All women considering breast augmentation should be informed that breast implants are not life-long devices and may need to be exchanged or removed every 10-15 years depending on the patient’s needs. Follow-up examination and imaging, which can include ultrasound or MRI, will help determine the cause of any changes and to ensure implants have not ruptured. For women currently with implants, continued long-term follow-up with your plastic surgeon will allow for the best outcomes following breast augmentation.