Dr. Ritu Chopra, M.D., a Beverly Hills plastic/reconstructive surgeon and co-founder of Solvasa, is a compassionate thought leader on breast implant illnesses, a topic gaining increased attention in the medical community, especially as more celebrities have begun openly opting to remove their implants. Here, are nine facts about implants Dr. Chopra thinks every woman should know.
Implant fact #1: An auto-immune disorder can increase the risk of implant complications
“The majority of women who have implants do fine with them,” says Dr. Chopra. But, “there is a small percentage of women who suffer from illness related to their breast implants. These women generally have an underlying autoimmune issue that may or may not have been diagnosed before surgery. They get the implants and do fine for a while. But eventually the body starts reacting to the implants, and the women get weird, vague symptoms like anxiety, hair loss, joint pain, fatigue, and rashes, all of which are typical hallmarks of breast implant illness,” says Dr. Chopra. “So, in my humble opinion, and a lot of people will agree with me, if you have any signs of autoimmune issues, do not get a foreign body placed in your body electively—unless it's a knee or shoulder that you absolutely need. Don't get breast implants. They are going to rev up your immune system and possibly cause your autoimmune issues to worsen.”
Implant fact #2: Explants are on the rise
Because Dr. Chopra has been seeing an increase in complications related to implants, he has stopped performing elective breast augmentation and only uses implants for reconstructive surgery (i.e. post mastectomy). He is, however, performing explants regularly—as many as three to four every week. Dr. Chopra points to the number of celebrities who’ve opted for explants as a sign of a growing trend. “Although breast augmentations are still popular, they're decreasing and explants are increasing. People are gravitating now to more of a natural look. We went through the Pamela Anderson days of Baywatch and big boobs. But even Pamela recently downsized. You see a lot of celebrities who are choosing to take out their implants, either because they got them at 20 and now they’re 40 and they don’t like the way they look anymore. Or because they suspect they are impacting their health.”
Implant fact #3: There is only one way to diagnose breast implant illness
“When the implants are still in the body, unfortunately, we do not yet have a test to determine if the implants are causing the patient’s symptoms. Breast implant illness is the diagnosis of exclusion. If you’ve exhausted every avenue and still feel bad, then we say, ‘Ok, we're going to take out the implants and capsules and see how you feel,’” says Dr. Chopra.
Implant fact #4: An explant can help alleviate symptoms most of the time
“For those women with severe symptoms from suspected breast implant illness, about 85 to 95 percent will get relief after an explant. And if they don’t get any better, that usually indicates something else is causing their illness.”
Implant fact #5: Insurance will, alas, typically not pay for explants
“Unfortunately, because we are not able to diagnose breast implant illness while the implants are in the body, insurance will usually not cover surgery to remove them. When insurance will typically help pay: If your implants rupture, or if they become hard and painful.”
Implant fact #6: Saline and silicone implants likely pose the same risk
“A saline implant and a silicone implant have the exact same outer shells. If your body is going to react to an implant, it’s usually not as a result of what is inside the implant—it’s the shell,” explains Dr. Chopra. “When I do explants because of health issues, I'm seeing about 50 percent saline and 50 percent silicone.”
Implant fact #7: Everyone does not need to get their implants out
“I do have patients coming in, worried about breast implant illness because of what they’ve read or seen on social media. And I always reply, ‘Well, do you have any symptoms?’ If they say no, but they’re a bit tired, that’s not usually enough reason to take out the implants. Fatigue can be caused by many things,” says Dr. Chopra. “When I am concerned is when the patient has debilitating symptoms like, they can't get out of bed, or have a rash all over their body, or their joints hurt terribly. But for most women, I say, ‘If you're doing well, you're doing well.’”
Implant fact #8: There are ways to help minimize the risk of developing breast implant illness
“I believe being on an anti-inflammatory diet can help. If I had to choose one thing women should stay away from, it's sugar. Sugar sparks inflammation, and breast implant illness is an inflammatory condition.”
Implant fact #9: Implants are not the only option for breast reconstruction
“There are three options for breast reconstruction. You can go flat, which some people are doing, and which I think is a great option. Two, you can take fat from elsewhere on your body and place it into the breast area. This is an all-natural option that poses few risks. Third, you can opt for implants. Women are obviously allowed to do whatever they want with their body but I believe they need informed consent so they can make an educated decision.”
Want more information from Dr. Chopra on breast implant illness? Check out Episode 2: Beautifully Aware on The Beauty Construct podcast, now available for download on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. You can also follow Dr. Chopra on Instagram, @DrRituChopra, or visit his website at OrdonChopra.com.