Every few months, the news has another story about a disaster occurring somewhere in the US with a patient who has been injected with silicone. Usually the patient gets a terrible infection from the silicone injections, and many go on to develop chronic problems. The worst part of silicone injections is that there is no treatment or way to remove the silicone once it has been injected under the skin.
The perpetrators are invariably lay people or doctors who have no training in cosmetic surgery. The victims are typically in the southeast of the US and looking for a quick fix.
The areas of assault are silicone injections into the buttocks or the breasts for augmentation of these areas. Sometimes the face has been injected. In the most recent case that led to the death of the patient, someone actually injected a mixture of silicone and cement into the buttocks!
Silicone is a ubiquitous material on the planet. After all, it is the main constituent of sand. It has been used extensively in our modern world. Silicone is used to lubricate machinery, as a sealant around doors and windows, is placed in cosmetics to make them smoother, is layered onto Styrofoam cups to make them slicker and is placed in breast implants for cosmetic breast surgery enlargement, among other uses.
It is a wonderful material! When used in the correct way, in the correct volumes and in the correct level of purity, it has real benefits. The problems arise when silicone is used in a manner it is not intended for.
Cosmetic uses of silicone
Liquid silicone injections
When I was training as a cosmetic plastic surgeon in the early 1990s, a bête noire of the cosmetic surgery field was a certain Dr. Orenstein, a dermatologist in Florida, I think, who was notorious for injecting silicone into patients’ facial lines and lips. This was thought of as heresy by most plastic surgeons, and as a specialty, plastic surgeons have shied away from any injections of silicone. Interestingly, there are still practitioners from other disciplines who have no qualms about injecting silicone.
Silicone breast implants
Cosmetic plastic surgeons have used silicone in the form of implants for many years. Silicone gel implants have been used for breast augmentations since the 1970s. In earlier times, implants had a silicone gel in a silicone shell. The consistency was that of honey, and if a silicone breast implant ruptured it was a mess to clean up. More modern breast augmentation implants have a harder gel, almost like gelatin, which does not ooze but rather stays in place when cut.
Silicone facial and body implants
Another form of silicone that is used in implants in plastic surgery is a solid silicone implant. These types of implants are much firmer than breast implant materials. They are constructed to have the approximate hardness of bone when used in the face as implants for cheeks, nasal implants or chin implants. A consistency of muscle is required for implants for buttock enlargement, chest enlargement in men and calf implants.
The body’s reaction to silicone
Whenever our body comes into contact with silicone, it recognizes it as a foreign material and tries to block it off by forming a capsule around it. These capsules can be large, such as those around breast implants, or tiny, such as those around the beads of silicone injections into the face.
The body actually seems to handle microscopic beads better than larger injections. Patients with silicone injections for breast augmentation or buttock enlargements seem to do the worst. Free silicone lumps coalesce and move around under the skin. They then form capsules that become particularly inflamed and painful. It is these patients that call every so often begging for a plastic surgeon to do something to rid them of the rocks under their breasts and buttocks, and it is always a very sad day when the plastic surgeon has to say there is nothing that can be done. Worse still is that the surgeon cannot even give them hope; it’s a disaster.
Just this week there was a new look at this problem by the US government following the number of atrocities committed by lay people. In one case, silicone from the hardware store was injected into someone’s buttocks—disaster was in hot pursuit.
Look at these horrors…
It certainly seems that it is time to put a stop to this type of misery.