Breast Implant Survey Suggests Doctors Divided on Safety

Published on March 21, 2017 by Sandy Liebhard

A recent survey of doctors suggests that there is little agreement on the issue of breast implant safety. The poll, which was conducted by a physician social network site called SERMO, received more than 2,000 responses from plastic and reconstructive surgeons, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, dermatologists and others.

According to a report from The Financial Times, respondents were asked their opinion on breast implant safety, considering patients maintained “upkeep and maintenance” over time. A surprising 49% of those surveyed said they did not consider any type of breast implant to be safe. Saline implants were considered the safest option by 14%, while silicone implants were viewed similarly by just 5%. Both types of implants were considered safe by 32% of respondents.

The risks associated with breast implants include pain, infection, scar tissue, leakage or ruptures, and changes in sensation. Researchers continue to study the long-term safety of both silicone and saline implants.

Silicone Breast Implant Controversy & Litigation

Silicone breast implants were the subject of major products liability litigation in the 1980s and 1990s, after thousands of woman claimed that the devices had caused autoimmune disorders and other serious health issues.  Device manufacturers eventually spent billions to settle breast implant lawsuits. However, the high cost of the litigation forced Dow Corning to file for bankruptcy.

The controversy over silicone breast implants prompted the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to impose a near-ban on the devices for 14 years, beginning in 1992. The restrictions were lifted in 2006, and today Allergan Plc, and Sientra Inc. and Mentor Worldwide are the only three companies approved to sell silicone breast implants in the U.S.  Together, they market a total of five silicone gel devices:

  • Allergan Natrelle
  • Allergan Natrelle 410 Highly Cohesive Anatomically Shaped Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
  • Mentor MemoryGel
  • Mentor MemoryShape
  • Sientra’s Silicone Gel Breast Implants

Earlier this year, Bloomberg News reported that Mentor had been named a defendant in two breast implant lawsuits filed on behalf of women who claim the company’s MemoryGel devices had made them sick. Mentor is accused of failing to provide patients and doctors with adequate warnings regarding the risks associated with the implants, and they assert that the devices were never subjected to proper safety testing as mandated by the FDA.

One of the women’s attorneys told Bloomberg that the recent filings could be just the “tip of the iceberg,” and claimed that Mentor’s silicone breast implants may have caused illness in thousands of women.

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