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Intern Med J. 2001 Mar;31(2):77-89.

Women's health after plastic surgery.

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Westmead Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.



Allegations that exposure to endogenous silicone, especially related to breast implants, might be causally related to connective tissue disease originated from case studies. More recent comparative studies have implied no such increased risk. The aims of the present study were to compare the prevalence and/or incidence of autoimmune and connective tissue disorders in a population-based cohort of female Sydney residents stratified by augmentation mammoplasty status.


In this population-based retrospective cohort study, the health status of female Sydney residents who had augmentation mammoplasty for cosmetic reasons between 1979 and 1983 was compared with that of female Sydney residents who had non-silicone-associated plastic surgery over the same period. Both groups were matched for age (+/- 5 years), year of plastic surgery (+/- 2 years), plastic surgeon, anaesthetist and mode of anaesthesia. Outcome measures comprised rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, systemic sclerosis, sicca symptoms polymyositis/ dermatomyositis, connective tissue disease overlap, digital vasospasm, abnormal nailfold capillaroscopy, elevated antinuclear antibody titre, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, livedo reticularis, thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, axillary lymphadenopathy, fibromyalgia and breast carcinoma.


There was no difference in the occurrence of connective tissue diseases or connective tissue disease-related parameters, thyroid disorders, fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis between cohorts. However, axillary adenopathy and low titre positive antinuclear antibody (ANA) occurred with a significantly greater frequency in the exposed cohort (odds ratio (OR) = 3.50, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 2.10-5.84 and OR = 1.29, 95% CI = 1.03-1.62, respectively). Axillary adenopathy correlated with capsular contracture (relative risk (RR) = 2.07, 95% CI = 1.22-3.51) and also the self-reported development of digital vasospasm (RR = 3.20, 95% CI = 1.46-7.03) after breast augmentation.


No association was found between augmentation mammoplasty exposure and various connective tissue diseases and/or their related features. However, axillary adenopathy and low titre ANA were detected more frequently in the exposed cohort. Women with axillary adenopathy were more likely to have breast capsular contracture and report digital vasospasm post-dating surgery. Given comparable frequencies of higher titre ANA of both cohorts, the finding of elevations of low titre ANA is of dubious clinical significance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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