Silicone breast implants and immune disease.
Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, University Hospital, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH.
Silicone was originally regarded as inert in the human body. Silicone medical devices have been associated with various complications that may involve an immune reaction to silicone or a silicone organic complex. There have been more than 80 cases reported in the medical literature of a varied systemic autoimmune illness in patients who have had various foreign materials placed in the breast. Controversy exists as to which complications have a cause and effect relationship, and which represent coincidental findings. It is difficult to distinguish between nonspecific local reactions and reactions that have an immunological basis. Approximately 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 women in the United States have had silicone breast implants inserted for reconstruction or augmentation mammaplasty; 28 of those patients have been reported to have developed a systemic autoimmune disease. Data on the 28 reported cases do not in any way prove a causal relationship between breast implants and immune disease. Given the natural incidence of autoimmune diseases, we would expect a coincidental occurrence in the United States of more than 1,000 cases of autoimmune disease in women who had undergone breast implant surgery. Additional information must be obtained to resolve the question. The true incidence of autoimmune disease in patients with implants needs to be determined. A prospective registry of implant patients should be established and comprehensive retrospective information obtained on the implant patient population. Further experimental work is necessary on the bioreactivity of silicone. Patients with implants and autoimmune disease, once identified, must be carefully evaluated by physicians who are experienced in the treatment of autoimmune disease
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