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PIP breast implants: No long-term damage

Final NHS report into the faulty PIP breast implants finds they are twice as likely to rupture, but are not toxic and won't cause cancer
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson

18th June 2012 - NHS experts in charge of reviewing the faulty PIP breast implant scandal say they are around twice as likely to rupture as other implants, but do not cause cancer and are not toxic or harmful to human health.

The PIP implants were found not to contain normal medical grade silicone.

The NHS has received 7,098 referrals of woman concerned about the French-made PIP implants fitted by private clinics and 883 women with PIP implants fitted by the NHS itself.

4,349 diagnostic scans have been carried out and 490 women have opted to have their implants removed on the NHS.

The NHS in England and Scotland will only remove private faulty implants. The Welsh government says any woman originally treated privately will be eligible for free replacement.

PIP implant report

The NHS expert group looked at data on 240,000 breast implants of different makes used in England involving 130,000 women. They also studied findings from 5,600 implant removal operations.

Their findings are:

  • Ruptured implants can cause reactions such as tenderness or swollen lymph glands. However, testing of the PIP implant gel material has not found any long-term threat to human health. They are not toxic and not carcinogenic cancer causing. The PIP implants have higher concentrations of siloxanes which is also found in hair and skin care products, antiperspirants and deodorants - but this is not a health risk.
  • The mechanical strength of the PIP implants is inferior to other products. PIP implants rupture around twice as often as other makes at around 6% to 12% of failures after five years and a 15% to 30% failure rate after 10 years.

'Worrying time'

In a statement, the NHS Medical Director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh says: "This has been an incredibly worrying time for women. We have been determined to look thoroughly at all available evidence so we are able to give them the best clinical advice possible."

He's written to GPs about his findings but says the advice to women who have the implants has not changed: "We would therefore advise that women who have symptoms of a rupture - for example tenderness, soreness or lumpiness - should speak to their surgeon or GP."

Wider issues

This report has focussed on the safety of the implants. Further work is being done to decide whether improvements need to be made in regulating cosmetic surgery, including a register of implants, to make it easier to contact recipients in the event of problems.

The report acknowledges that concerns over the safety of the implants is a risk to health in its own right.

Consultant plastic surgeon and British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) President Fazel Fatah took part in the NHS expert review group. In a statement reacting to the report's findings he says: "We agree with the report findings that anxiety itself is a form of health risk and thus it is entirely reasonable for women to have the right to opt for removal - regardless of whether there has been rupture."

Reviewed on June 17, 2012

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