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“Breast Implant Illness” – can breast implants make you sick?

Breast augmentation is one of the most popular aesthetic plastic surgeries. But what can also be observed: More and more women believe that their implants are making them ill and state that they suffer from a variety of symptoms. Nevertheless, the so-called “Breast Implant Illness” is not (yet) recognized as a medical disease. Tikbow spoke with a medical specialist.

According to the most recent statistics from the "International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS)", üover 1.6 million breast augmentations were performed worldwide in 2020. However, anyone who notices signs of autoimmune disease after augmentation should talk to an experienced aesthetic surgeon, as the implants may be to blame. The term "Breats Implant Illness" (BII) is an attempt to give these symptoms a name.

"Breast Implant Illness" – what is it?

Symptoms such as hair loss, headaches, muscle pain or sleep disturbances were summarized many years ago under the term Breast Implant Illness (BII). This collective term for diseases that can be observed in the vicinity of breast operations with implants does not indicate a causal relationship, but it cannot be ruled out either", explains Dr. Jens Altmann, senior physician at the Lake Constance Clinic and Secretary General of the International Society for Aesthetic Medicine. This is a dilemma for many sufferers, because the path to an official diagnosis is often long, since no medical tests currently exist for the disease in question. "The diagnosis is made by exclusion procedure. This means, for example, that the patient’s blood is first tested for certain autoimmune diseases that could explain the symptoms," says Dr. Altmann.

Social media becomes a mouthpiece for sufferers

Many women who suspect that their condition is due to Breast Implant Illness feel left alone. Neither the WHO recognizes BII as an official disease, nor is there an ICD-10 code classification (International Classification of Diseases). "So far, scientific studies have not been able to prove a link between breast implants and BII", says the specialist. Affected people would therefore seek support mainly online, including celebrity women. Thus, model Chrissy Teigen as well as actress Ashley Tisdale decided to make their fate öpublic and reported on Instagram üabout their implant removal. Another prominent example is "Drag Race"-juror Michelle Visage, who processes her ordeal in the documentary "EXplant" (2021).

Treatment options for "Breast Implant Illness"

Before therapy is considered, other causes should first be ruled out. If this is the case, however, the only option for patients is to have the implants removed again," emphasizes the specialist. For fear that the symptoms could persist, some women also opt for a so-called en bloc resection. In this one- to two-hour procedure, the capsular scar tissue that forms around the implants is also removed. According to Dr. Jens Altmann, this is a very demanding technique that only experienced breast surgeons can master. Those who want to compensate for the loss of volume afterwards can be successful, for example, with autologous fat treatment. For this purpose, fat is first removed by suction from a part of the body such as the abdomen or the hips and, after preparation, injected into the breast,” explains the expert. However, because usually only 70 percent of the injected fat cells survive, several operations may be necessary to achieve the desired result.


With expert advice from Dr. Jens Altmann, senior physician at Bodenseeklinik and secretary general of the International Society for Ästhetic Medicine (IGÄM e.V.)