It’s been a virtual ticket to virality and media coverage. Plastic surgeons have dropped, driven over, blended, and even bitten breast implants in creative and entertaining—but ultimately inaccurate—tests of the implant’s strength.
Ensuing print coverage has suggested that some of these social media antics “prove the durability” of breast implants.
Plastic surgeons who specialize in explant surgeries have shared thousands of postoperative patient images that tell a different story.
Breast Implants Turning to “Mush”
Dee Hicks, explant liaison for Jupiter, Florida-based board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. David Rankin, told Surgical Times the viral videos are “not only misleading, but contradict studies that say the [implant] shell breaks down over time and becomes permeable.”
Absent in all of the viral videos is anything akin to the real-world environment that implants will spend their 10-plus-year life in, or the conditions they will there endure.
“Why don’t you put the implant in a slow cooker for years at 100 degrees. It will be mush.”Dee Hicks, explant liaison for Dr. David Rankin
Commenting on videos of this nature that she sees, Hicks says she’s asked some of the creators why they don’t put the implant in a 100-degree cooker for years, ‘then run it over with your Lamborghini?’
“It will be mush,” she says.
From Mush to Mold
As far as breast implant durability, “mush” is one problem. Mold is another.
According to the literature, and to several practicing plastic surgeons who responded to a breast implant mold scare in 2016-2017, mold growth in breast implants is very rare, but not unheard of.
These images, shared Friday on social media by Hicks, are among the many that her BII advocacy work has put her in contact with.
While many of the patients who undergo explant surgery have had breast implants in place for several years or more, mold growth can occur in saline breast implants in as few as 18 months, according to a JPRAS article that chronicled a case of Aspergillus flavus mold growth in and around a saline breast implant that had been placed just 18 months prior.
Aspergillus flavus is a mycotoxigenic fungus. Mycotoxins, the World Health Organization says, are toxic compounds produced by certain molds.
Mycotoxins “pose a serious health threat” and the effects caused by them range from acute poisoning, to immune deficiency, and cancer, according to the WHO.
In December 2015, the Daily Mail Online reported on a 44-year-old Florida woman, Anne Ziegenhorn, whose breast implants grew moldy. Ziegenhorn told the Mail that the “toxic silicone [shell of her saline-filled implants] nearly killed me,” and her 19-month-old son, who suffered a severe kidney infection and “almost died.”
You can drive over it as many times as you want. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get deathly, deathly ill from them.Amanda Porta, BII advocate and explant liaison for Dr. Kevin Brenner
Amanda Porta is a patient advocate and explant liaison in Dr. Kevin Brenner’s Beverly Hills practice. Before eventually undergoing explant surgery herself years ago, her plastic surgeon told her that the shells of the then-newest model silicone breast implants were so safe she would “have to have a spear go through your chest for them to rupture.”
Though her implants never ruptured and were intact upon explant, she says she still experienced years of serious adverse reactions. “I almost died,” she told Surgical Times.
Of the viral videos, Porta says, “you can drive over it as many times as you want. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get deathly, deathly ill from them.”
“There’s no study that I have ever seen, not one, that has proven their safety. And I’ve asked many surgeons over the years if they’ve ever seen a study proving the safety of breast implants and usually the answer is ‘no.’
“I’m still waiting for a study that proves their safety,” she says, “and I would love to see one one day.”