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French Breast Implants and Medical Tourism
Posted by Laurence Weider, MD on January 23, 2012
A recent report from France warns that silicone filled breast implants manufactured by a French implant maker called PIP have a very high rupture rate. In addition, PIP has been accused of using industrial grade silicone to fill the implants instead of more expensive medical grade silicone. The cheaper industrial grade silicone may lead to greater inflammation of nearby tissues. These implants were sold and implanted in several countries including those in Europe as well as South America. They were not available or implanted in the United States, however.
Health officials in several countries are now trying to determine whether to recommend that these implants be removed from those women who have them already. Interestingly, in the late 1990s, approximately 15,000 women had saline filled PIP implants placed in the United States. Some of them even had their surgery in Dallas, Texas. Those PIP saline filled implants had a high leakage rate and were banned by the FDA in 2000.
Currently, there are only two breast implant manufacturers who have FDA approval to sell their implants in the United States. They are Mentor and Allergan. The implants that are sold in the United States have undergone very rigorous testing and research done over multiple decades.
The PIP implant controversy serves to highlight one more reason why medical tourism (traveling to a foreign country to have cosmetic surgery) is often a bad idea. While you may find a competent surgeon, the safety standards in many countries are not as rigorous as those in the United States. I have personally seen women who have had non-FDA approved silicone implants inserted in a South American country that are now having problems with the implants. A small amount of savings initially could cost you much more in the long run.