There are growing problems for cosmetic plastic surgery patients who have undergone breast augmentation surgery in many parts of the world. For the lucky plastic surgery patients who had silicone implants placed by board certified plastic surgeons in the US, this is not a matter of concern, as the implants under scrutiny were never allowed to be sold here.
For many other patients worldwide, the breast implants made by the French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) are a cause of heartbreak. In the latest turn of events, the Italian government is now suing the French manufacturer and a German company that actually affixed the European Union seal of approval on the PIP implants. Worse still, another German manufacturer of breast implants has admitted that they bought their silicone from PIP—they bought the industrial-grade silicone instead of the medical-grade variety that is supposed to be used in breast implants. Whether they knew what they were buying or they were duped by the French company still awaits investigation.
On another front, though, there is good news for US plastic surgery patients who went on medical tourism trips and had PIP breast implants placed in South America or Europe. One of the US manufacturers of breast implants, Mentor Corporation, has announced a plan to help these patients. Since the silicone implants made by PIP need to be replaced, Mentor Corporation is providing these patients with a $250 gift card to be used for breast implant replacement surgery with one of their implants. The Compassionate Care program at least helps with the $5000-$6000 cost for the surgery. They didn’t have to do that—it is nice of them. The problem, of course, is that many thousands of women who had breast augmentation surgery in other countries have no idea of the type of breast implant they have, and you can only find out by taking the implants out. That would require a first surgery for implant removal and a second for re-augmentation of the breast.
The PIP silicone breast implant disaster is not over yet. Closer scrutiny of medical devices, manufacturing processes and suppliers in our global economy will be needed in the near future.