Tag Archives: Study

Silicone: Now a Solid ‘Maybe’

Melissa Healy, The Los Angeles Times: November 27, 2006.

The days before Thanksgiving are typically quiet in the offices of plastic surgeons. But a long-awaited decision to approve silicone breast implants for women older than 22 prompted a flurry of excited calls and inquiries last week from prospective patients. […]

The agency’s decision “does create a whole host of questions” for women considering silicone breast augmentation and for the doctors who perform those procedures, said Dr. Walter Erhardt, chairman of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ public education committee. […]

Cleared but questioned

The FDA’s approval — after 14 years of study — had been expected to end the controversy around silicone gel implants.

The devices were pulled from the general marketplace in 1992 amid concerns that they could rupture and endanger women, possibly contributing to autoimmune diseases. Although a link to health problems was never proved, long-term safety has remained an issue. In the meantime, the implants have remained available to cancer survivors and a wide range of women who agreed to enroll in studies of the implants’ safety.

But the new recommendations present patients and their plastic and aesthetic surgeons with additional uncertainties: Who will pay for the recommended MRI scans? What danger does the FDA foresee if patients, as expected, fail to get them? Does the FDA consider that a ruptured implant device — even one that presents no discomfort or proven danger to the patient — must necessarily be surgically removed and replaced? If so, whose financial responsibility would that be?

“Do you think [insurance companies] are going to say, ‘No problem, we want what’s best for the patient?’ ” asks plastic surgeon Marcel Daniels of Long Beach. “No. A lot of third-party payers have ruled out payment for any treatment — including complications — related to breast implants.”

What to do if those MRI scans detect cracks or breaks in an implant “is another conundrum that’s created by this [FDA] recommendation,” said Erhardt, of Albany, Ga. By calling for costly MRIs to detect silent ruptures and potential replacement surgery in such cases, the FDA is suggesting to patients and physicians that leakage may present safety concerns. “But we still don’t have science that [a silent rupture] creates a harmful situation for the patients. And the FDA hasn’t addressed that either,” Erhardt said. […]

The specialized MRI images required to detect the integrity of a breast implant typically cost between $1,500 and $1,800, said Diana Zuckerman, director of the National Research Center for Women & Families, a nonprofit research and education organization in Washington, D.C. Costs at some centers can reach up to $4,000, and many women would have to travel long distances to get the recommended images, added Zuckerman, whose organization testified against the latest silicone implant approval.

“These young girls are often going into debt that they can’t really afford to get out of, and they’re paying for something on installment that they can barely afford,” Zuckerman said. “I certainly think any woman who is not affluent would be crazy to choose silicone because of the additional cost.” […]

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Silicone Implants Generate Renewed Debate

Colette Bouchez, HealthDay: August 21 2002.

As federal health officials ready for hearings on whether silicone breast implants should be allowed back on the U.S. market, a new study offers evidence of a reduced rate of implant rupture. The study, conducted by a group of Danish researchers, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study implant rupture rates in some 300 women for a period of three years. From that data, the researchers extrapolated a rupture rate of 15 percent to 17 percent 10 years after the women received the implants. […]

Diana Zuckerman, a former member of the National Cancer Institute advisory committee on breast implants, says the study offers a gross underestimate of the implant rupture problem.

“If it were truly 15 percent at 10 years, that would be an improvement, but I do not believe for a minute that it is 15 percent. It’s an estimate based on an assumption that I don’t believe this study supports,” says Zuckerman, executive director of the National Center for Policy Research for Women and Families.

Zuckerman notes the new research, published in a recent issue of the Archives of Surgery, only studied women for three years. And without specific 10-year data, there’s no real way to accurately project the rate of rupture across an entire decade, she says.

A study published in 2000 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found a silicone implant rupture rate as high as 55 percent, with up to 69 percent of all women likely to experience a rupture in at least one breast. […]

“Up until two years ago there were no specific studies done on the health problems of women whose implants ruptured. And when this research was finally conducted, in one study by the FDA and two by the NCI (National Cancer Institute), there was a significant increase in certain health problems in the women with the ruptured implants,” Zuckerman says.

Zuckerman says the findings from the NCI studies were even more troubling. In this research, doctors compared women who had breast implants to other plastic surgery patients, and found the implant group (most of whom had silicone gel implants) were more than twice as likely to die from brain cancer, and three times as likely to die of lung cancer.

“If I were a woman contemplating silicone breast implants, this would sure scare me,” Zuckerman says. […]

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