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FDA: Silicone Breast Implants Don't Last a Lifetime

Report Shows Many Silicone-Gel Breast Implants Are Removed Within 10 Years

Complications of Silicone Breast Implants continued...

The FDA's safety update on silicone breast implants comes on the heels of a new report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons showing breast augmentation and reconstructive surgeries are on the rise.

Nearly 300,000 women opted to boost their breast size with implants in 2010, making it the most popular cosmetic procedure in the U.S.  Over the last decade, the number of breast implants performed in this country has increased 40%.

Breast reconstruction, which is typically done with implants, was the fifth most common reconstructive procedure in 2010, with an increase of 18% over the last decade.

Perspective of Plastic Surgeons

Experts say they believe women know what they're getting into when they select a silicone implant.

"I believe that patients generally understand that these are not lifetime devices any more than total joints or heart valves are," says Scott L. Spear, MD, chief of plastic surgery at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C.

He says the survival rates for silicone implants are largely age dependent. Younger women who get them are more likely to also need to have them replaced, simply because they may live longer than a woman who gets them in her 70s.

Spear says the removal rates cited by the FDA reflect cases where women choose to get their implants taken out as well as cases where the removals are medically necessary, and for that reason, he thinks the numbers may seem unnecessarily frightening.

"The removal rate that FDA sites seems high to me and does not, to the best of my knowledge, reflect my personal experience or the experience of many surgeons," Spear says. "FDA tends to clump all reasons for removal together, including changing size, removing the implants electively for reasons of personal taste, and removal after radiation therapy or mastectomy, etc."

Other experts agree.

"The way those numbers are put together, it includes women who have decided, without a complication, to have their implants removed," says Phil Haeck, MD, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons  and a practicing plastic surgeon in Seattle. "We would have felt a little better, if they had put down a different category for elective decisions that women make to change their implants."

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