I’m Dr. Patricia McGuire, a board-certified plastic surgeon. I’ve been performing cosmetic and reconstructive breast surgery with implants for 28 years.
My identical twin sister is also a physician, and she had breast implants for breast asymmetry 10 years ago. I’ve seen how her surgery has improved the quality of her life as I’ve seen in my own breast reconstruction and cosmetic patients.
Over the last few years I’ve removed implants from patients with systemic symptoms referred to as breast implant illness. These patients have symptoms which vary in type and intensity.
Because of seeing these patients and hearing their concerns, I asked my sister to start keeping a journal of any symptoms she’s developed since having her implants. Her symptom list included memory issues, fatigue, sleep disturbances, body aches, among others.
These are many of the symptoms that I hear from my patients with breast implant illness.
I thought it interesting to keep my own list of symptoms for comparative purposes.
I found that as a 57-year-old woman, my list had the same symptoms and the same intensity and severity as my sister who had breast implants.
My sister and my story highlight how difficult it is to make this diagnosis and a direct link between breast implants in every case with the numerous and real symptoms we hear from our patients, as these symptoms can also occur in women without implants.
This is an important topic to plastic surgeons. I was one of six international authors on a paper on this subject, published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery earlier this month.
Because of my experience and interest in this topic, I was asked to be a member of the Aesthetic Society’s task force on breast implant illness.
Our goals include determining potential causes, such as subclinical infection, allergic or neurologic components, to see if we can predict which patients may be at risk, to determine laboratory values which could be used in diagnosis, which patients would benefit from removing their implants, and whether or not the entire implant capsule needs to be removed.
This task force was formed last year to guide research projects and also to educate our 2,200 members on breast implant illness in order to promote communication and collaboration between patients and surgeons.
There are physicians who believe that all of these women are crazy and ignore those symptoms.
And those who have taken advantage of their fears are recommending potentially risky surgical procedures and expensive detoxification programs that have not been scientifically validated.
Through the efforts of the Aesthetic Society, we hope to encourage a dialogue between patients and their plastic surgeons, as in a video published last week on theplasticsurgerychannel.com, which I highly recommend.
We need to obtain sufficient scientific data so we can help our patients make educated decisions when deciding whether to have implants for cosmetic augmentation or breast reconstruction, and also to determine when implant removal may be indicated and the safest procedures for our patients.
[Open public comment given by Dr. Patricia McGuire, at the General and Plastic Surgery Devices Panel, FDA White Oak Campus, Building #31, Great Room, on March 26, 2019. The title of this article does not constitute part of the speaker’s presentation to the FDA Panel, and any hyperlinks within the text or text appearing in brackets were added for clarity or ease of use by editors.]