Are Silicone Breast Implants Really Safe?

Breast augmentation is the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure in the UK. If you are considering breast surgery, here are some of the best ways to ensure your silicone breast implants are safe.

Mr Darren Lewis, a Consultant Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgeon who works at Nuffield Health Wolverhampton Hospital, is reassuring. He says, "Breast augmentation today is a very safe procedure with very high satisfaction rates and a low risk of complications."

Anxieties over breast implants have been fuelled by health scares and the discovery that a type of French silicone gel-filled implants known as PIP implants had a thin, weak shell which was much more likely to break or rupture, and were filled with non-medical grade silicone. These were manufactured as part of a rare criminal fraud, are no longer used in breast surgery, and will not be found in any Nuffield Health hospitals. Moreover, many studies have shown there is no evidence that silicone breast implants cause any kind of disease. However, there are some simple things you can do to help ensure the safety and reliability of your implants."

How to make sure your breast implants are safe

  • Ask your surgeon about which implants they plan to use. These all have a long record of safe use. All use ‘implantable grade’ silicone, which is a higher grade even than medical silicone.
  • You should have the opportunity to see and feel the exact type of implant proposed for you before your surgery.
  • Ask about the guarantee. Normally the manufacturer offers a lifetime guarantee against rupture caused by any defects in the implant.
  • For the best result from your breast surgery, check your surgeon is fully qualified and working in a hospital monitored by the Care Quality Commission
  • While sensible, these precautions do not mean your implants will last forever. A silicone gel-filled implant lasts on average 10 to 15 years. It may rupture, with or without symptoms. The latter is known as silent rupture, in which the leakage of silicone is not noticeable for a long time. However, studies have shown that this is not associated with any illnesses.  Implants can also be affected by the scar tissue that naturally grows around a breast implant, which causes hardening known as capsular contraction. You can reduce the risk of this happening to you by up to 70 per cent simply by not smoking. Only five to 10 per cent of non-smokers suffer capsular contraction.

Last updated Tuesday 25 October 2016

First published on Thursday 20 August 2015