In ‘Paradigm Shift,’ Google Search Volume for ‘Breast Implant Removal’ Up 235%, for ‘Explant’ Up 527%

by Surgical Times

Duke University researchers note an “explosion” of public interest in breast implant removal and explant surgery, interest they say represents a “paradigm shift.”

In 2019, the number of patients undergoing breast augmentation surgery in the U.S. dropped by 4 percent, the research team says, while patients undergoing breast implant removal surgery “continued to rise rapidly”—by 6 percent in 2018, and by 15 percent in 2019, year over year.

Interest in Implants Down, Interest in Explants Up: 2006-2019

While breast augmentation remains one of the most popular aesthetic surgery procedures in the U.S., the relative search volume for “breast augmentation” by users on Google has “steadily dropped over time.” 

During the same period, the relative search volume for “breast implant removal” has increased by 235 percent, and for “explant” by 527 percent.

These findings are detailed in an article by a team of five Duke University doctors and researchers titled “Google Trends Highlights a Breast Implant Paradigm Shift,” which has been accepted for publication in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

“Between 2006 and 2019, Google Trends analysis demonstrated a 235 percent increase in ‘breast implant removal’ relative search volume as well as a 527 percent increase in ‘explant’ relative search volume, suggesting growing public interest in breast implant removal procedures.

Google Trends Highlights a Breast Implant Paradigm Shift, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: February 28, 2022 – Volume – Issue – 10.109
(Search interest over time for breast implant removal–related search queries generated by Google Trends. BIR, breast implant removal; ALCL, anaplastic large-cell lymphoma; BII, breast implant illness. Source: Google Trends Highlights a Breast Implant Paradigm Shift, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery : February 28, 2022)

Article’s Key Findings

Key findings covered in the article include the following:

  • Search interest in “breast augmentation” has “steadily dropped over time.”
  • Search interest in “breast implant illness” “rose dramatically after becoming mainstream circa 2016.”
  • From 2006-2019, the relative search volume for “breast implant removal” increased by 235 percent.
  • From 2006-2019, the relative search volume for “explant” increased by 527 percent.
  • These increases suggest “growing public interest in breast implant removal procedures.”

“…public awareness of breast implant illness may be the more influential driver in recent breast implant removal trends.”

Google Trends Highlights a Breast Implant Paradigm Shift, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: February 28, 2022 – Volume – Issue – 10.109

The authors believe that public awareness of breast implant illness, which became mainstream circa 2016, “may be the more influential driver in recent breast implant removal trends.”

Interest in explant and breast implant removal also spread far across state boundaries, with members of the public in 11 new states demonstrating interest in breast implant removal in 2019 that had not measurably done so in 2006.

These states are Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

Relative Search Volume Defined

The authors of the PRS article employed Google Trends as a data source, which tool they note has been previously used by experts to analyze a range of medical topics including cosmetic surgery and infectious disease outbreaks.

“Relative search volume” refers to the fact Google Trends doesn’t return an exact count of the number of users searching for a particular phrase or topic. Instead, Trends assigns a range of numbers between 1 and 100 to a term or topic within a given time period to indicate how popular it is at intervals within that period.

 “A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term,” says Google.


Reference: Tian, William M. B.S.; Rames, Jess D. B.S.; Blau, Jared A. M.D., M.Ed.; Taskindoust, Mahsa B.S.; Hollenbeck, Scott T. M.D. Google Trends Highlights a Breast Implant Paradigm Shift, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: February 28, 2022 – Volume – Issue – 10.1097/PRS.0000000000008943 doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000008943

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