Comment: Staying safe with breast implant surgery

Dr Davina Deniszczyc Dr Davina Deniszczyc Medical Executive Director, Nuffield Health
New measures rolled out to protect patients in the wake of the Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) scandal are a step in the right direction for the medical profession, but patients still need to look out for themselves. Dr Davina Deniszczyc explains.

Since October, every patient in the UK who has a cosmetic implant will have the opportunity to be included on the Breast and Cosmetic Implant Registry (BICR), a new initiative by NHS Digital.

The development is in line with recommendations from the Keogh Review, handed down after PIP implants were found to be filled with industrial-grade silicone, affecting 300,000 women in 65 countries, including over 40,000 in Britain.

The registry will be used to identify trends and contact patients in the event of a recall or product problem and goes a long way to restoring consumer confidence.

But that doesn’t mean patients can afford to be complacent. Here’s how to stay safe when thinking about breast implants:

Make sure you’re included

The BICR is an automatic process available to all publicly and privately-treated patients in the UK. All providers are required to seek your consent to be on the registry if you are having implants. You can choose to opt out, but by being on it you are not only contactable in the event of a problem, but you’ll also provide valuable data to the registry.

If you already have implants, you can contact your provider and retroactively give consent to join the registry.

Ask about your particular implant

Your surgeon should offer you the best implant for your needs, but you have every right to ask questions about their recommendation. Ask about its safety record, how long it has been in use and ask if it is ‘implantable-grade’ – a cut above medical-grade silicone.

Ask to see it, to feel it and enquire after the guarantee. It should offer a lifetime guarantee against ruptures caused by defects.

Know your surgeon

An implant is only as good as the surgeon who implants it. When choosing your surgeon, check that they are working at a clinic monitored by the Care Quality Commission and look into their rating.

Keep checking your breasts

Despite all these precautions, most gel-filled breast implants last 10-15 years on average. They may rupture or leak, sometimes without symptoms – known as a ‘silent rupture’. With safe implants, ruptures aren’t known to cause health problems but symptoms can include:

  • Pain, soreness or swelling in the breast
  • Change in shape or size of the breast
  • Hardening, softening or lumps in the breast.

These signs could indicate a rupture or could be other breast issues unrelated to your implant, so it’s best to get any concerns checked as soon as possible.

Find out more about breast augmentation surgery.

Last updated Tuesday 7 November 2017

First published on Friday 14 October 2016