Now some plastic surgeons are refusing to do implants at all.
Thousands of women have spoken out about breast implants that have led to excruciating pain, immobility, full-body rashes, and unrelenting nausea. The cluster of symptoms has been dubbed breast-implant illness.
The condition is not an official medical diagnosis and doctors have been unable to find evidence it exists, and the plastic-surgery community at large has continued to operate as usual.
But four known plastic surgeons in the US are no longer comfortable giving breast implants and have removed the offering from their practices.
After breastfeeding her three sons, 40-year-old Susan Barrow wanted her breasts to look perky again.
She first thought she wanted a breast lift, which involves surgically removing excess skin and reshaping the breasts, but the plastic surgeons she consulted with convinced her a breast augmentation would better help achieve her goals. The procedure requires a surgeon to insert silicone or saline-filled implants into the breasts to create a fuller appearance.
Just a week following the surgery in which Barrow had her breasts enlarged with implants, she was unable to sleep on her left side because the devices made the experience excruciatingly painful.
That pain persisted for years. Soon, it was accompanied by other symptoms that felt even worse. “My body would swell up and get rashes out of nowhere. I saw every type of doctor possible and no one gave me an answer,” said Barrow, a mortgage lender in Washington state.
In 2018, 11 years after getting her implants, Barrow hit a breaking point. She felt so weak that she stayed in bed for two weeks straight and her hair began to fall out in chunks. “It felt like I was fighting for my life every day,” she said.
Barrow’s story is one of thousands, but the medical community is slow to change
Barrow is one of thousands of women who have spoken out, either at at a spring Food and Drug Administration hearing or online, about breast implants that have led to excruciating pain, immobility, full-body rashes, and unrelenting nausea.
There are more than 250 online groups, pages, and communities dedicated to supporting women with the issue, according to one advocacy organization’s running list. One group alone has more than 96,000 members.
But doctors haven’t been able to find medical evidence that the cluster of symptoms known as “breast-implant illness” exists, and so the plastic-surgery community at large continues to operate as usual.
A handful of plastic surgeons in the US are bucking the trend, however, and refusing to offer breast implants in an effort to protect future patients from the elusive illness.
Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jae Chun of Newport Beach, California, is among them. “You can’t predict who will have issues and who won’t, so I didn’t feel comfortable putting them in at all,” he told Insider.