Are Silicone Breast Implants Safe?

Dr. Sophie Bartsich is one of the top plastic surgeons in New York City. Her award-winning research is focused on cosmetic breast surgery and is dedicated to the development of better breast implants. Her recently published article, “Déjà Vu: Silicone Breast Implants Have A Complicated History, But Are They Safe Now?” explores the questions surrounding silicone implants through the eyes of her experience not only as a physician, but as a woman.

Dr. Bartsich refers to the recent findings of the The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Plastic Surgery Department, which conducted the most extensive study ever among women who have silicone breast implants. The purpose of the study was to judge the relationship between silicone and certain autoimmune disorders, as well as other chronic illnesses. By surveying women with the implants, the hope was to find out if they were more likely to develop these illnesses than women without silicone in their breasts. While the study’s results were slightly uncertain due to inherent weaknesses, the findings strongly indicated that the illnesses were in fact related to breast implants filled with silicone gel.

A Difficult Background

From the early 1960s to the 1990s, most breast augmentations were done using silicone gel implants. The soft contour and natural feel made them the easy, popular choice over saline implants. However, rising concerns about the effects of implant leakage and reports of silicone causing various illnesses led to the removal of silicone implants from the market until 2006. During this time, saline was the filler of choice for most breast augmentation patients. But, when silicone gel was finally reintroduced to plastic surgery consumers, women embraced it because the implants were safer and better than ever. Today, it is still a favorite option as the “gummy revolution” has further improved the safety of silicone implants.

A Surgeon’s Experience With Silicone Gel

Dr. Bartsich underwent her surgical training at some of Manhattan’s most prestigious academic institutions. She performed many cosmetic and reconstructive breast augmentations using different types of implants. During those years, there was just one design for saline implants – which basically made them feel and act like a water balloon. When it came to instruction about the safety of silicone gel implants, she recalls,

“We were taught that these implants should be periodically monitored for rupture, since a ruptured silicone implant often looks and feels no different than one that is intact. But there was not much concern for general wellness in these patients.”

The vast majority of breast augmentation patients were willing to deal with the bother of routine monitoring if it meant they could have a better looking implant. Dr. Bartsich describes her patients as “very aware and motivated women, highly active and pressed for time.” When consulting with patients interested in silicone gel implants, she explained the risk of silent rupture and the necessity of MRIs. When the question came up about how often the implants would need to be replaced, Dr. Bartsich admits there was no easy answer. Most of her patients still ended up choosing silicone gel implants over saline implants.

Gaining Deeper Perspective

Performing many different types of implant revision surgeries over the course of several years has given Dr. Bartsich a fresh perspective on the effects of silicone gel on the body. Witnessing first hand what happens to implants anywhere from 5-46 years old has allowed her to advise her breast augmentation patients wisely. She has even performed surgery on patients whose MRI results indicated their implants were obviously ruptured, when in reality they were perfectly intact. She says,

“I no longer tell patients, “If they’re not bothering you, leave them alone,” as I had been taught. And I no longer expect that the MRI has the answer; I trust my exam and clinical judgment… I treat the patient, not the problem.”

Are Silicone Implants Safe or Not?

Like other plastic surgeons, Dr. Bartsich is often asked about the safety of silicone breast implants. It’s a question she has spent time researching and talking about with her patients. Some women report vague symptoms of unwellness when they have silicone gel in their body after an implant breaks. Others say they “just felt better” after they had their silicone implants removed. It’s hard to ignore the recurring testimonials of women with silicone gel implants who have felt a negative change in their health. Dr. Bartsich says, “One would argue that where there’s smoke, there’s fire, but we still don’t have definitive proof of what the problem might be nor how deep it runs.”

Beauty Without Compromise

With the sticky history of silicone gel implants, it’s easy to see why women would be torn when trying to choose between the peace of mind offered by saline breast implants and the beauty of silicone implants. Dr. Bartsich has had the internal debate herself, “I always imagined that if there were a saline implant that looked and felt comparable to silicone, it would be very welcome in our community. The Ideal Implant, with a structured multi-chamber design, saline fill, and perky contour, provides that low-maintenance possibility.”

IDEAL IMPLANT® Structured Breast Implants are for women who want beautiful, natural-feeling augmented breasts without having to worry about keeping up with MRIs and the potential risks that come with silicone gel leakage. Many of Dr. Bartsich’s breast augmentation patients choose the IDEAL IMPLANT for those very reasons. She believes in educating her patients on all of their options for breast implants so they can make the decisions that best suit their needs.

We’ve Come So Far, But Questions Remain

The current market for breast implants has a wide variety of options. Silicone gel implants and saline implants have both come a long way in terms of safety, look, and feel. The IDEAL IMPLANT offers an alternative to each, addressing patients’ desires for both beauty and security. The fact that we are revisiting the potential health risks associated with silicone breast implants is enough to concern women and plastic surgeons alike. Dr. Bartsich says, “The truth is that if it were me, I wouldn’t want a ruptured implant in my body… And as a woman, I also know that sometimes not feeling well is hard to explain and even harder to prove.”

Dr. Bartsich continues her research to pursue the answers that her breast augmentation patients need to make informed choices. Her article, “Déjà Vu: Silicone Breast Implants Have A Complicated History, But Are They Safe Now?” considers the questions at the forefront of the minds of women considering breast implants. She states,

“As a surgeon, I try to keep current with the latest data so I can accurately represent the facts. As a woman, I always consider what I would want someone to tell or offer me if I were the one having the consultation. As a patient, I weigh the risks and benefits of every choice I make, and what it might mean in the future. And as a physician, I have to feel good about what I did for someone today.”

Considering breast implants in New York City? Contact Dr. Sophie Bartsich today to discuss your options. Simply call 212-717-9200, or visit www.doctorsophie.com. Dr. Bartsich’s office is located at 960 Park Avenue, New York, New York 10028. Call today for more information on IDEAL IMPLANT® Structured Breast Implants.