Study on BII reveals: women with and without breast implants experience physical symptoms

Questions about the safety of silicone breast implants have existed since they were first used. Some women report general physical complaints, such as fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain and cognitive complaints, which they relate to the implants. This pattern of symptoms, also known as Breast Implant Illness (BII), has received much media attention. These media can play an important role in causing and amplifying unrest. “As plastic surgeons, it is our job to fully inform clients and also to take health complaints after cosmetic surgery seriously,” says Prof. Dr. René van der Hulst (plastic surgeon at Maastricht UMC+ and MOOI Clinic). “That is why we think it is important to learn more about BII and started a study.” Thus, Renée Miseré researched these common physical complaints, which some women relate to their breast implants, with the goal of providing scientific evidence around this topic so that plastic surgeons can provide their patients with the right information.

What is Breast Implant Illness?

Stories appear in the media of women who have become ill from their breast implants (Breast Implant Illness). It involves unexplained symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, cramps, anxiety attacks, etc. BII is not an official medical diagnosis and is attributed to the breast implants by the women themselves. However, the majority of women did report that they felt better after the implants were removed. Much is still unclear about BII and whether these symptoms are related to, for example, the risk of sweating implants or excessive capsule formation. Until now, there was no test or scientific evidence for this disease.

The research on BII

Through various studies, Renée Miseré and her team (which included Prof. Dr. René van der Hulst and dr. Andrzej Piatkowski, both plastic surgeons at MOOI Clinic) how often certain physical complaints occur in women with breast implants, what factors influence the onset of these complaints and what is the effect of removing the implants. Furthermore, symptoms and quality of life in women with breast reconstruction were examined.

Interesting research findings

The main findings of the surveys were as follows:

  • Physical complaints are very common, even in women without breast implants;
  • Physical complaints are not more common in the general group of women with breast implants than in women without implants;
  • In women with general physical symptoms related to the breast implants, improvement in symptoms occurred in 60% of cases after removal of the breast implants;
  • Women with Breast Implant Ilness often experience cognitive symptoms, such as memory loss or difficulty concentrating. Using MRI scans, Miseré’s study showed no abnormalities in women with Breast Implant Illness and in healthy women with breast implants. Also, there is no difference when it comes to memory loss or concentration problems with women without breast implants.
  • Psychological factors, such as stress, anxiety and depression, seem to play a role in the development of general physical symptoms in women with Breast Implant Illness.
  • Women undergoing breast reconstruction with silicone breast implants are no more likely to develop general physical complaints than women undergoing breast reconstruction with their own tissue.

What will these research findings be used for?

Breast augmentation with implants is one of the most frequently performed procedures by plastic surgeons worldwide. Breast implants are used for both cosmetic breast augmentation and breast reconstruction, after breast cancer, for example. Approximately 10,000 breast augmentations and over 3,000 reconstructions with breast implants are performed each year in the Netherlands.

Renée Miseré’s research has made an important contribution to the scientific evidence regarding Breast Implant Illness and may help plastic surgeons advise women when making decisions about breast implants.

Feel MOOI and good,