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Breast Implant Illness – Fact or Fiction?

The Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS) have released a statement on ‘breast implant illness’.

“You may have heard the term ‘breast implant illness’ and wondered how prevalent it is, writes Associate Professor Mark Magnusson, Specialist Plastic Surgeon and President of the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.  However, the term is not well defined and tends to be a capture-all phrase used by patients on social media for any infliction that may be experienced by a woman after having breast implants inserted.

I’ve heard and read women stating they’ve suffered toxicity from their breast implants which has caused symptoms such as fatigue/low energy, cognitive dysfunction (brain fog, memory loss), headaches, joint and muscle pain, hair loss, recurring infections, swollen lymph nodes and swollen glands, rashes, IBS, and even problems with the thyroid and adrenals.  I wouldn’t want to trivialise anyone’s experience of the aforementioned symptoms, but do note these can be caused due to a large number of illnesses.  If however, a person is concerned about their breast implants they should seek medical advice as to whether or not to have them removed.

It’s important to note that breast implants are medical devices.  They are not a lifetime solution and patients will need to have them removed and replaced at some future point in time.  8 out of 10 women will still have their breast implants at 10 years and most will have had them operated on again by 15 years.  There are a variety of reasons for needing reoperation that include changing the size or addressing other changes to the breast associated with pregnancy, weight fluctuations and time.

There are well-documented issues that can arise with breast implants.  There are issues such as capsular contracture, migration, implant rupture and even the rare association between textured breast implants and breast implant associated-Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

Breast implant illness is much harder to define. There is no strong evidence, and in fact, very little evidence at all. There is no pathophysiological explanation, no hypothesis regarding how silicone could cause these problems and no diagnostic test.  There are however, well-supported social media support groups for women with “breast implant illness” and many women who feel they are affected.  There are many millions of women with breast implants and in a group of that size, we would expect to see a broad array of unusual problems unrelated to breast implants.

There is no doubt that some patients just don’t co-exist comfortably with their implants.  This might be due to physical symptoms associated with scar tissue or from the additional weight and for others, they may have hard to define symptoms.  We can’t claim to know everything, and it may be that in the future we understand more.  Many women have their implants removed due to these concerns and some appear to be helped.

So while the jury is still out on whether or not breast implant illness is fact or fiction, I can tell you that in this day and age breast implants are very safe when you are under the care of a Specialist Plastic Surgeon.  There is however, a group of women that request removal of their implants for a variety of reasons and some feel they have “breast implant illness”.  Of this latter group, some experience an improvement in their symptoms, but importantly not all.

ASAPS members are fully qualified Specialist Plastic Surgeons from Australia and New Zealand who are Fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS), with expertise, experience and ongoing education in aesthetic surgery.  Our members only operate in accredited facilities so you can be assured they will follow the appropriate course of action to minimise the risk of infection.”

Choosing the correct implant size

Breast Implant sizing

So, firstly every plastic surgeon does this a slightly different way so don’t get too alarmed if your surgeon does breast implant sizing differently because the main themes that I am trying to get across will be valid. The critical measurement that most surgeons use is called the base width of each breast and it will determine the ultimate width of the implant we will choose.

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Hand Postoperative Instructions


Hand Procedures

The usual dressing will be a gel gauze on the wound covered with gauze and a bandage. This may be supplemented with a half plaster splint for certain procedures. You should keep this clean and dry for the first week.


Most of the sutures are dissolvable and under the skin and can’t be seen. They don’t need removal.  There may be some sutures which need to be removed which is usually at day 14.


Major operations by their nature will have some degree of pain involved. Your surgeon will let you know the specifics of your procedure.  The pain is generally not as bad as expected.  Pain relief is very important and we take it seriously.  Often you will need 1 or 2 doses of stronger medication through the drip for the first night and after this the rest of your pain relief can be taken in tablet form.  This will be discussed with you by the anaesthetist before the operation.


You will be encouraged to mobilise on the first post-operative day and your mobility will progressively increase over the next few days.  This is critical as the most important thing you can do to prevent DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is to walk. It also speeds your recovery and decreases the chances of other complications.  Your inpatient stay will depend on the procedure but many operations can be performed as day cases or overnight stays. Light activity such as a fast walk that raises a sweat is comfortable at 4 weeks. Sporting activities and heavy lifting should be avoided for about 6 weeks.


For minor procedures done in our rooms you literally only need the time off for the procedure itself which is usually about 30 minutes. Similarly most day case operations only require one day off work.

For major procedures the usual timeframe is 1-2 weeks however this depends on the actual procedure and the nature of your employment. Please ask your surgeon for a more accurate guide


You will be permitted to drive 1-3 weeks after your procedure depending on the type of surgery.


It is not uncommon for the skin around the scar and the area that has been operated on to be numb after the operation. This is normal and does not mean that a major nerve has been cut.  It occurs because when an incision is made or skin has been removed then there is damage to microscopic nerves which can’t be seen.  If you feel tingling, burning, or shooting pains this is not cause for alarm and in fact is an indication that the small sensory nerves are regenerating.  This feeling will disappear with time and the sensation will return but it can take a long time.


Horizon Plastic Surgery advises scar management to start 2-3 weeks after your surgery or when the wounds are healed.   You can either tape the wounds with micropore which will provide support to the wound and then moisturise and massage each time the tape is removed.  This tape can stay on for 2-3 days each time.  If you are finding that your skin is becoming irritated then please discontinue use and contact our nursing staff who will advise you of a course of action.  For high risk patients you may be prescribed a silicone gel tape called sicacare which can aid in reducing scar formation and can be bought buy from the chemist.  Scar management should be continued until 3 months post surgery.


You will usually be required to wear TED stockings for compression to prevent DVT (blood clotting in the legs) post-operatively.  If required these will be fitted at the hospital on your admission day.  They are generally only worn whilst you are in hospital.


You will be discharged with both pain relief and antibiotic medications.  Please take as directed. Most medications you ceased prior to surgery can be recommenced 1 week after your surgery but this will be individualised to each patient so please ask your surgeon.

Carpal Tunnel Surgery

This is the most common hand operation that is performed. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition where the nerve (median nerve) that runs through the palm of the hand goes through a tunnel which is called the carpal (meaning wrist) tunnel.  If the nerve gets compressed on its way through the tunnel then it causes symptoms and this is called carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Thinking of cosmetic surgery?

Are you thinking about cosmetic surgery?

Did you know that it can take on average up to ten years from the initial thought of having cosmetic surgery to getting the procedure done?

The Vice President of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons talks about cosmetic surgery on the ABC Nightlife programme with Philip Clark and Sarah MacDonald.

To listen, click on this link: