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Silicone Breast Implant Update

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Late last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a short announcement that set the wires buzzing briefly. The gist of the news was that while silicone breast implants are generally safe, they cannot be expected to last a lifetime.

Actually, neither of those two notions is exactly news. What the FDA was doing with its June announcement was updating the public with additional data on silicone breast implants, supplementing findings it announced in 2006 when silicone breast implants were re-approved for use here in the U.S. What were those findings from five years ago? You guessed it: silicone breast implants are generally safe but shouldn’t be expected to last a lifetime.

Many media organizations, including the New York Daily News, seized the more dramatic side of the announcement—the “don’t last a lifetime” part—and led with it (Goldwert 1). To be fair to journalists covering the announcement, the FDA did publish statistics showing that 20 percent of women with breast implants for 10 years will need them removed—and that is a data point worth publishing (FDA 1).

But in its own Consumer Update on the subject, the FDA actually led by reiterating the safety of these devices. The organization stated that since silicone breast implants had been re-approved in the U.S. in November of 2006, manufacturers have been required to conduct follow-up studies to gather more data on the devices. With this information in mind, the FDA “continues to support the safety and effectiveness of these implants…”(FDA 1).

This is good news for many plastic surgeons who prefer the newest generation of silicone gel-filled implants over saline implants for their superior look and feel. The silicone in these implants is termed “cohesive” as it holds together even if an implant shell is ruptured or the implant is cut. This quality, which prompts the nickname “gummy bear implants,” is quite a bit different than previous generations of silicone implants with liquid-like filling (Marina Plastic Surgery Associates 1).

In fact, if you look closely at the FDA’s Consumer Update, you’ll see that in some places the organization is talking about the risks of all breast implants, meaning silicone and saline. For instance, in the point about the devices not lasting a lifetime, the FDA stated that “women with breast implants will need to monitor their breasts for the rest of their lives.” Note the reference to “breast implants,” not silicone breast implants. The FDA further outlined the most frequent complications that occur, including, capsular contracture (tightening of scar tissue around the implant), rupture, wrinkling, asymmetry and others (FDA 1). These complications also occur with saline implants.

Does this mean there’s little cause for concern about the risks associated with silicone breast implants? Of course not. Women who have or who are considering implants of any type would do well to review the Consumer Update (reference below) and follow the suggestions of the FDA to monitor the integrity of their implants.

But this follow-up report by the Food and Drug Administration is good news for plastic surgeons and their breast augmentation. The devices the FDA described in 2006 as some of “the most extensively studied medical devices” (FDA 2) now have five more years of safety to report.


Goldwert, Lindsay. Silicone breast implants ‘not lifetime devices’: FDA; After 10 years complications likely to arise. New York Daily News. June 22, 2011. Web. July 10, 2011. http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-06-22/entertainment/29710588_1_gel-implants-breast-implants-silicone

FDA Consumer Updates. Silicone Gel-Filled Breast Implants: Updated Safety Information. Food and Drug Administration. June 22, 2011. Web. July 10, 2011. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm259825.htm

Marina Plastic Surgery Associates. Silicone Implant Evolution. Gummy Bear Breast Implants. Web. July 10, 2011. http://www.gummybearbreastimplants.com/implant-evolution.cfm

FDA News and Events. FDA Approves Silicone Gel-Filled Breast Implants After In-Depth Evaluation. November 17, 2006. Web. July 10, 2011. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2006/ucm108790.htm

Reviewed July 12, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Alison Stanton

Add a Comment1 Comments

There is absolutely NOTHING SAFE WITH BREAST IMPLANTS. Look up the ingredients and not only is it flammable, it is deadly. I have been in such a horrible mess with ruptured silicone implants and it is in my blood stream, liver, brain and other organs in my body. I have been crippled from it. I have friends who have died from brain, breast, and other forms of cancer due to them. PLEASE, if you want to know about them and other medications and medical devices look it up. The FDA could care less about about human life as well as the government because think about how they make their money from all this. Also look up anything you may have to go through or take especially contrast dye and medications. My husband was thrown into complete kidney failure from it and NO AGAIN he did not have kidney disease as the FDA says. THAT TOO IS A LIE. Then one of the medicines that he had to take to keep him alive gave him cancer. So are we safe because the FDA says we are? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!! Go online to Dr Susan Kolb in Atlanta Georgia [plastic surgeon] and see how safe the implants are. Another worldwide known plastic surgeon Dr Edward Melmine. I may have mispelled his name but I believe he may be in Texas. People, please be your own medical specialist and check everything out before killing yourself. I am a Christian and want to speak on behalf of everyone on this subject. I am not a candidate for removal due to the health problems these horrid things have cause me. I didn't know what it meant when I had to have reconstruction back in the 70"s and was told they were safe. THIS IS A LIE. Please be careful with all you have done and take because they say it is safe. Please pray for us all as we have to place our lives in the hands of the medical people who have been led to say to us how safe things are because the FDA said so. Thank you for listening to me. Munchkin

January 7, 2012 - 11:03am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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