Statement on “Breast Implant Illness”

There exists a cohort of women who request breast implant removal because of what has been referred to as “breast implant illness” (BII), a term used to describe a constellation of symptoms they attribute to their breast implants. However, there is no known medical or pathophysiological explanation for their symptoms and there is no diagnostic testing for BII.

Social media groups exists and discussions include mention of symptoms such as generally feeling unwell, fatigue, chronic pain, rash, body odour, irregular heart rate, anxiety, neurological abnormalities, hair loss and endocrine (hormone) dysfunction.

It has been speculated that some symptoms in some patients may be attributable to very low-grade infection after implant placement, perhaps with unusual organisms (such as fungal spores). However, to date, there have been no bacteria or fungi detected women who describe themselves as having breast implant illness.

Around 50% of posts about BII on social media appear to describe symptom improvement after implant removal.

From my perspective, I treat each of my patients as an individual. Whilst there appears to be no medical evidence for breast implant illness, if a patient seeks my help and desires removal of her breast implants in the hope that various symptoms she is experiencing will be improved, I will always listen, and try to help. I will, however, stress that I cannot predict whether removing her breast implants (with or without the surrounding capsule of scar tissue) will have any effect on her symptoms and only time will tell.

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