Medical experts continue to debate a condition known as Breast Implant Illness (BII) as ongoing investigations from the FDA seek to determine the causes, risks, and frequency of this mysterious disorder.
On the other hand, textured implants have been directly linked to Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), leaving no doubt about the concerning health implications posed by these specific implants.
While breast implant-related illnesses continue to baffle the medical community, a growing number of women worldwide report suffering from unexplained inflammatory symptoms that they attribute to their implants. The prevalence of breast implant illness remains unclear; however, with over 400,000 women choosing breast implants annually in the United States and many others sharing their breast implant illness stories, it's a concern worth taking seriously.
Some of the most common symptoms experienced by women with breast implants include the following:
- Chronic fatigue
- Joint pain
- Brain fog
- Skin rashes
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Autoimmune disorders
- Thyroid problems
- Hair loss
- Digestive problems
When these symptoms don’t appear related to any other medical condition or environmental factor, women with breast implants seek help from a plastic surgeon. .
From his consultations with numerous BII patients over the years, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Dr. Fredric M. Barr, M.D., F.A.C.S. of Palm Beach Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery, understands the delicate nature of this topic. He’s also aware of the medical gaslighting many women have experienced from practitioners, primarily because breast implant illness is not a recognized diagnosis. However, Dr. Barr felt so strongly about breast implant illness that he stopped performing breast implants in 2018. He believes a surgeon’s job is to listen to their patients when they discuss their symptoms, take them seriously, and help them make well-informed decisions by educating them about their options.
In this blog, he offers knowledgeable insight and compassionate support by sharing the journey of a BII patient and information on the most common symptoms and available treatments. Do you suspect you might have breast implant illness? Call (561) 833-4122 to schedule a consultation with our patient counselor.
The Decision to Get Breast Implants
As we mentioned, over 400,000 women in the U.S. choose to get breast implants every year. This popular cosmetic procedure involves placing an implant in a woman's breasts to enhance their size, shape, and overall appearance.
The various types of breast implants include:
- Saline: this is a popular choice for women age 18 or older who want breast augmentation. They are filled with sterile salt water and provide a uniform shape, firmness, and feel. If the implant shell leaks, a saline implant will collapse, and the saline will be absorbed and expelled by the body.
- Silicone: silicone implants contain a silicone gel that feels more natural than other types of material used for breast implants. In case of accidental leakage, the silicone gel may remain within the implant's shell or move into the surrounding breast tissue. However, despite leakage, the implant will not collapse. It is recommended that individuals who choose silicone implants have regular check-ins with a plastic surgeon to ensure the implants are functioning optimally. Additionally, they can undergo an ultrasound or MRI screening to assess the condition of the implants. It is important to note that the FDA approves silicone breast implants for women aged 22 or older, specifically for augmentation.
- Textured: textured breast implants are designed to reduce the chances of undesired movement or repositioning of the implant inside the breast by encouraging the development of scar tissue that adheres to the implant surface. This surface texturing can be beneficial in preventing the formation of a tight scar capsule.
Women choose breast implants for various reasons, including the following:
- Improve self-esteem: Women who feel self-conscious about the size or shape of their breasts may choose to get breast implants to boost their self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Restore breast volume after pregnancy or weight loss: Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and significant weight loss can cause the breasts to lose volume and shape. Breast implants can help restore fullness and shape to the breasts.
- Balance asymmetrical breasts: Some women have asymmetrical breasts, with one breast larger or smaller than the other. Breast implants can help create a more balanced and symmetrical appearance.
- Enhance physical appearance: Breast implants can enhance a woman's physical appearance, making her feel more attractive and confident.
- Fit better in clothing: Women with small breasts may have difficulty finding clothing that fits well, particularly when it comes to swimwear or formalwear. Breast implants can help create a more proportionate and flattering silhouette.
- Feel more feminine: For some women, having larger, fuller breasts can help them feel more feminine and attractive.
- Feel more youthful: As women age, their breasts may begin to sag or lose volume. Breast implants can help create a more youthful and perky appearance.
Deciding with your eyes wide open is critical for any woman considering breast implants. While many plastic surgeons will do their best to explain the risks and potential complications associated with breast implant surgery, there's still a concerning lack of informed consent in the industry. We recommend that you do your research, ask plenty of questions, and ensure you fully understand the risks before moving forward. Breast implant illness is a valid concern, and, unfortunately, many women have had to suffer due to inadequate information from their surgeons. As a compassionate voice on the subject, Dr. Barr strongly urges all women considering breast implants to educate themselves and demand the informed consent they deserve.
I got my breast implants in 2006. Even though I started to experience symptoms right away, I did not associate them with my implants. I just attributed them to becoming older and the pressures of having just started a business. As most busy women do, I just disregarded the symptoms.
But four years after getting my implants, my symptoms became so severe I could no longer ignore them. I became extremely ill. I developed food allergies. I could not digest food. I experienced debilitating pain and fatigue. I developed migraines daily. I suffered from dizzy spells. You name it, I had it. I had over 32 symptoms and 10 diagnosed auto-immune illnesses. I felt as if my whole body was falling apart!
Still, the doctors I consulted with or myself never considered it could be my breast implants that were causing these problems.
Ten years after receiving my implants - with six of those years being absolute misery - I was bedridden. I felt as if I’d been exposed to some sort of poison that was slowly killing me...and it turns out I was! I felt like I was dying. You know when you have the flu and can barely get up, and all you want to do is lay on the couch? That was me. It was a daily chore just to survive.
Then I had an “aha moment” when a friend of mine suggested my implants might be to blame.
I said, “You know, what if it IS my implants? I will never let another woman suffer as I did. I will speak out loudly to raise awareness to prevent other women from suffering so long as I did.”
And, as we all know, my breast implants turned out to be the cause of all my symptoms. I can say that with confidence because after I had them removed, my body felt transformed. I am not exaggerating; for example, before I had my breast implants removed, I couldn’t even walk up a flight of stairs in my house. If I wanted to go upstairs to my bedroom, it took me 20-25 minutes to climb the stairs. It was awful. It’s really hard to explain if you’ve never experienced something like that, but I was so fatigued and lethargic it took every ounce of energy I had. I felt like I was slowly dying.
It was probably less than a week after having my explant surgery that I literally climbed up the stairs in two minutes. That was it. That was my indication that my body had been fighting the implants for 10 long years and just wanted them out.
The Onset of Symptoms
The onset of BII symptoms is often gradual, with fatigue, brain fog, and joint pain among the most common manifestations. Sadly, many BII patients share a common frustration when seeking medical attention because healthcare providers—failing to recognize the debilitating impact of these symptoms—often dismiss or label them hypochondriacs. Consequently, many women with BII suffer in silence. At Palm Beach Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery, the heartbreaking personal stories we hear from BII patients seeking answers inspire us every day to remain a compassionate, authoritative, and informative resource on this issue. We encourage all breast implant illness doctors to listen to their patients and raise awareness about the realities of BII.
As we mentioned, Breast Implant Illness can cause a broad range of symptoms that vary from woman to woman but generally include the following.
- Chronic fatigue
- Joint pain
- Brain fog
- Skin rashes
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Digestive issues
- Thyroid problems
- Autoimmune disorders
Because other medical conditions can cause these symptoms, consulting with a plastic surgeon is advisable to rule out any other potential causes.
The Journey to Diagnosis and Explantation
Unfortunately, diagnosing BII is challenging due to the lack of standardized diagnostic criteria, the variability of symptoms, and the fact that symptoms can develop years after implantation. Many doctors unfamiliar with the condition may dismiss patients’ concerns or even suggest psychological issues, leaving numerous women with BII undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, which can lead to unnecessary medical treatments and prolonged suffering.
For these reasons, BII patients must find a knowledgeable healthcare provider who can provide the proper BII diagnosis and treatment plan. Explantation or the removal of breast implants remains the only known solution for alleviating and eliminating BII symptoms and the only way to confirm a BII diagnosis definitively. However, removing implants is complex and requires careful consideration and discussion with a qualified plastic surgeon.
Should I Undergo a Breast Implant Explantation?
Breast Implant Illness is a complex, controversial topic that has left many women feeling helpless and unsure. Although medical research is still lacking, some women have reported decreased or eliminated symptoms after removing their breast implants. For patients that request it after understanding the side effects, Dr. Barr performs a comprehensive procedure which involves removing both the implants and surrounding scar tissue. If you're considering implant removal, consulting with a trusted plastic surgeon who listens to your concerns and educates you on your options is crucial. Dr. Barr takes an informative and compassionate approach, putting patients at ease during this life-changing decision.
Why is En Bloc Such a BuzzWord?
En bloc is a French term that means “all together.” En bloc describes a procedure that removes a tumor with a margin of uninvolved tissue when a suspicion of malignancy or cancer exists. In the absence of malignancy, en bloc is not recommended for the removal of breast implants. As noted by the National Library of Medicine, en bloc is primarily recommended for treating breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).
However, thanks to social media, patients made en bloc a buzzword for breast implant explantation, leading the public to incorrectly attribute an en bloc procedure as a solution for BII symptoms, rather than a specific treatment for anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).
Are You Confused About the Right Procedure for You?
On the other hand, a total capsulectomy removes scar tissue surrounding the implant and the implant itself. When at all possible, Dr. Barr chooses to remove the capsule in one piece. Unlike an en bloc capsulectomy, a total capsulectomy does not take out additional tissue beyond the scar capsule and implant. A total capsulectomy could offer a solution to women who suspect that their breast implants are causing their symptoms. Rest assured Dr. Barr does remove the capsule in its entirety.
Are you confused about the right procedure for you? Consult an experienced West Palm Beach plastic surgeon, who can recommend the right course of action for you based on your unique situation.
Palm Beach Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery Patient Counselor, Carla Pisani
As the patient counselor at Palm Beach Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery, Carla Pisani understands the journey of a BII patient undergoing this difficult procedure. First and foremost, she wants you to know that you are not alone and that the Palm Beach Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery team will be with you every step of the way. Dr. Barr has dedicated his 30 years of practicing medicine to keeping his patients safe and upholding his oath to do no harm.
What does that mean?
Every time a surgeon begins a procedure, there are potentially life-threatening situations and always permanent alterations to the body. For the doctor and his practice, performing surgery is an enormous responsibility. For you, the patient, your choice of doctor and surgery significantly impact your results.
Crucial considerations for the doctor and the patient include the following:
- Is the patient healthy enough to have surgery? Medical clearance is vital, including bloodwork, EKG, mammogram, and chest X-ray to ensure safety.
- Is the patient realistic about what they are trying to achieve, or are they expecting a filtered, unattainable result? Realistic expectations are vital to ensure a patient’s happy outcome.
- Are the office and staff available to you for questions and guidance throughout the procedure?
- Do you, as the patient, truly understand that whether you are sick with BII or simply sick of your implants, you are choosing to remove the implant, which, unfortunately, has permanent cosmetic consequences that cannot be reversed due to the damage done internally by the implant?
Under My Implants - A Well World TV Original Television Show
Dr. Barr recently participated in a Well World TV original series, Under My Implants. This reality-based program explores the heartfelt stories beneath women’s implants, the factors that led them to surgery, and the healing journey behind their process of getting them removed.
Watch the trailer below.
The Healing Journey
The healing journey is starting a new chapter of life. As an explant patient, you will experience many emotional, physical, and spiritual changes. The emotional aspect comes with a wide range of issues. You had once chosen to implant for a reason that is no longer relative to who you are today. We suggest having a counselor or therapist accompany you on this journey for support and understanding. Our patient counselors are available to you as well.
The physical challenges include an inability to move and exercise throughout the first six weeks of healing. Scarring and breast shape will evolve drastically throughout the first six months. Scarring may be helped with lasers, injections, topical remedies, lymphatic drainage massage, and scar massage. Irregularities and deformities by improving with future procedures such as mastopexy, scar revision, and fat transfer. Please know that maintaining communication and coming to follow-up appointments with Dr. Barr is a part of your healing. For some of you who have chosen an explant to relieve of BII symptoms, this can be a liberating experience as you regain your health, although not always. To those who focus only on the physical appearance of their breasts, this is extremely challenging. Each person’s journey and outcome should not be compared, as everyone heals differently and has differing genetics.
Dr. Barr and his staff are committed to walking with you through this multifaceted decision which will have many ups and downs as life so often does. Know that you are supported throughout your personal healing journey by everyone on our team.
Life After Explantation
Many women have reported feeling more energetic, experiencing less pain and inflammation, and a renewed sense of well-being after explantation surgery. Although the road to recovery presents challenges as patients navigate physical and emotional healing, for most patients like BII warrior Alison Liddic, the benefits of explantation far outweigh the challenges.
Are You Dealing with BII Symptoms? Contact Palm Beach Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery for a Consultation
Thanks to emerging breast implant illness stories, women worldwide have become more aware of this condition and can find support for their journey. While some in our society criticize those who choose augmentation surgery—with or without fully understanding why they decided to go ahead—none of us can ignore the truth: symptoms of Breast Implant Illness exist and become increasingly severe over time.
Although explantation presents physical and emotional hurdles, it has served as a solution for some women to reduce and eliminate symptoms. Are you coping with BII symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, joint pain, hair loss, anxiety, depression, insomnia, weight gain, digestive issues, skin rashes, thyroid problems, and autoimmune disorders? You are not alone. Countless women have endured the same ordeal and found reprieve in groups like Dr. Barr's Breast Explant Solution Group on Facebook. These resilient women share their real-life experiences to provide enlightening insights and guide you toward an optimal decision. For more information or to schedule a consultation with our patient counselor, call (561) 833-4122 or complete our online form.
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This blog provides general information and discusses health, cosmetic procedures, and Breast Implant Illness. The information and other content provided in this blog, or any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. Each individual has a unique physiology, along with their own characteristics, concerns, and desires. A blog cannot sufficiently address them.
If you or any other person has a cosmetic or medical concern, consult a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately.
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