Pros and cons of breast implants
Are they a good idea?
Earlier this year, the Food and Drugs Administration in the United States advised that breast implants - made from silicone gel and designed to change or enlarge the shape of breasts - are for the most part safe to use. The 'for the most part' caveat is the point to note here.
Health regulators warned that the implants are not lifetime devices, so the longer they are in the body, the more likely there are to be complications. It warned that follow-up visits, along with regular MRI scans, are crucial for all women who receive the implants, in order to screen for infection and ruptures.
If you have any worries or questions be sure to contact your doctor.
Keeping in mind that the breast implant is a 'foreign body', it's advisable to be vigilant through regular monitoring of the implanted device. In a Channel 4 documentary called Dispatches: The Truth About Going Under The Knife, investigators revealed that a breast implant which had been used on thousands of women in the UK - for both cosmetic and mastectomy reasons - had to be recalled when it was found to be prone to leaking.
Medical experts complained that the implant product in question had not undergone proper safety tests. They warned that certain manufacturers are not adequately monitoring the safety of their devices, relying instead on patients' reports, which is more than a little inconsiderate - and late - for the thousands of women who had already undergone implant surgery.
An alarm about faulty breast implant products has already been raised by surgeons in France who noticed that Poly Implant Prosthese (PIP) devices were rupturing. The PIP company went into receivership last year, but not before surgeons found implant patients presenting with immune system problems, debilitating pain, rashes and extreme fatigue.
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While cut-price or budget procedures carry higher risk with their use of less-expensive and potentially less regulated devices, investigations have also found faulty implants used in regular operations. Keep yourself informed with our pointers below.
Need to know
It's important not to rush into a decision to have breast implants; take the time to discuss your options with your GP. Breast enlargements are usually done under a general anaesthetic, so you will be asleep during the procedure.
If you smoke, you may be advised to stop because smoking increases the risk of getting chest and wound infections, and can slow the healing of wounds. Regular operations usually take one to two hours. You may need extended time off work, depending on your job, and you will need to avoid heavy lifting or heavy exercise for a set period to aid recovery.
As is the case with all surgical procedures, there is the possibility of developing an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic, excessive bleeding or developing a blood clot, usually in a vein in the leg (deep vein thrombosis). Many women have a difference in size or shape between the right and left breast. This difference may be heightened rather than regulated by implants.
If you develop an infection, you will have to undergo surgery again to remove the implant in order to treat the infection. Implants can leak (see above) and sometimes cause ripples or creases on the skin of the breast.
Specific risks vary from patient to patient. It is advisable to thoroughly discuss your particular lifestyle and circumstances with your surgeon in order to get a full risk assessment.