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Silicone Breast Implants and the Cost Effectiveness and Accuracy of MRI’s to Screen for Rupture

As a result of research and technological advancements, there have been fundamental improvements in the design and construction of silicone breast implants over the years. These have translated into breast implants filled with a cohesive gel (like taffy) that are stronger, far more durable and resistant to a multitude of forces and factors and which will last considerably longer compared to previous generations of implants. They will not, however, necessarily last forever.

In 2006, the FDA issued recommendations (not a mandate) that women who have silicone breast implants as a results of breast augmentation or breast reconstruction should have an MRI starting three years after their surgery and then every other year subsequently. However, there was no scientific data to support this approach. Given the considerable expenses (and inconvenience) incurred by having these MRI’s which may not even be covered by insurance, we need to consider whether the FDA’s recommendations are really a prudent and necessary.

Research conducted at the University of Michigan and published in the March 2011 issue of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® journal provides some compelling answers to this issue. This research combined and analyzed 21 previous studies that assessed the ability of MRI’s to detect silicone breast implant rupture in order to arrive at their conclusions.

What they discovered was that the MRI’s overall were fairly accurate in detecting ruptured silicone breast implants. However, in certain situations their accuracy rate was extremely high. In fact, they discovered that in women who presented with symptoms related to their breast implants, the MRI’s were 14 times more likely to discern a rupture than in those women who had no symptoms. Thus, in women who were asymptomatic, they were far less helpful.

How can we use this information to formulate reasonable recommendations?

Given that silicone gel breast implants will last on average well in excess of 10 years, MRI’s are not a cost effective tool to screen for ruptured breast implants in otherwise asymptomatic women during this first decade. Instead, mammograms and/or ultrasounds should be performed. If evidence arises or there is a significant index of suspicion for rupture, an MRI can then be considered.

If you would like more information on silicone gel breast implants, breast augmentation, breast reconstruction or for any other plastic surgery procedure that I perform or to schedule a complimentary consultation, please call my office at 480-451-3000.

Steven H. Turkeltaub, M.D. P.C.
Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona