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Life Sci. 1995 Mar 10;56(16):1299-310.

Silicone breast implants: immunotoxic and epidemiologic issues.

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  • 1Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.


Silicone gel implants for breast augmentation and reconstruction have been in use since 1962. Significant local complications include capsular contracture, rupture, gel "bleed", and spread of the implant material to regional lymph nodes (1-7) as well as histologic findings of foreign body granulomas in the capsular tissue and in lymph nodes (7-9). Through magnetic resonance spectroscopy and atomic emission spectroscopy, silicon compounds were found in the blood of some women with silicone breast implants; silicone and silica have also been found in liver (10). Well-publicized case reports have raised significant concerns regarding an association between implants and systemic disease. However, despite the availability of silicone implants for over 30 years, controlled epidemiological studies were not carried out until 1992. Currently available epidemiologic data are extremely limited. In part, because the majority of implants were used after 1981, the incidence of long-term problems is not yet known. In 1992, due to the unavailability of studies demonstrating the safety of implants, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised that silicone breast implants should be used only in reconstructive surgery and as part of clinical trials (11). This decision spurred a wave of research on the bioreactivity of silicone and clinical observations of patients with implants. Herein, we review the adverse immune effects following contact with silicone as well as the epidemiologic data available.

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