Study of Silicone Breast Implant Rupture, Extracapsular Silicone, and Health Status in a Population of Women

Brown SL, Pennello G, Berg WA, Soo MS, Middleton MS. “Silicone Gel Breast Implant Rupture, Extracapsular Silicone, and Health Status in a Population of Women.” The Journal of Rheumatology 2001.

The first study to systematically evaluate the health of women with ruptured breast implants has raised serious concerns about silicone implants. A team of scientists led by Dr. Lori Brown of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that women whose ruptured breast implants leaked silicone outside the scar tissue surrounding the implant were significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia (a painful soft-tissue disease), pulmonary fibrosis, and connective-tissue diseases such as dermatomyositis.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to examine the status of the breast implants of the women participating in the study. Based on the implant’s condition, researchers assigned cases to three groups: intact, ruptured, or indeterminable. (Those implants that appeared ruptured but were not able to be confirmed, were classified as indeterminable.) Radiologists also determined which ruptured cases had silicone that migrated outside of the scar capsule that surrounds the breast implant. A majority of the women had at least one ruptured implant, even though they were often unaware of that condition. Also, 21% had silicone that migrated outside of the breast area from at least one broken and leaking implant.

Women with ruptured implants where the silicone had traveled outside of the scar tissue were compared to women in the intact and indeterminable groups; investigators found an increase in fibromyalgia, dermatomyositis, polymyositis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, pulmonary fibrosis, eosinophilic fascitis, and polymyalgia. The significant association with fibromyalgia remained even after controlling for patient’s age, implant age, location, and manufacturer. Therefore, once the silicone from a broken implant migrates outside of the breast area, the woman’s risk for these serious diseases increases considerably.

This study raises serious concerns for women with ruptured implants, because it indicates that women who are unaware that an implant is ruptured and leaking could be at increased risk for health problems due to their exposure to silicone.

Read the original study here.

All articles are reviewed and approved by Diana Zuckerman, PhD, and other senior staff.