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Plast Reconstr Surg. 2004 Mar;113(3):847-56.

What exactly was wrong with the Trilucent breast implants? A unifying hypothesis.

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Department of Plastic Surgery, Gent University Hospital, Belgium.


Trilucent soybean oil-filled breast implants were initially announced as the ultimate prostheses for breast augmentation. However, after an increasing number of reports of local complications and hazardous metabolites attributable to lipid oxidation, first the United Kingdom Medical Devices Agency and later the Belgian National Ministry of Health urged all plastic surgeons to contact their patients and advise them to have the implants removed and, if desired, replaced with another type of prosthesis. In our plastic surgery department, 13 patients received bilateral implants with triglyceride-filled prostheses between February and July of 1996, for primary breast augmentation or replacement of previously implanted prostheses. For 12 of those 13 patients, the prostheses have been explanted, because of unilateral breast enlargement attributable to a ruptured prosthesis for five patients and following the recommendation of the Belgian National Ministry of Health for the other seven patients. Before explantation, all patients underwent standard clinical examinations, with assessments of breast shape, volume, and firmness. Blood analyses were performed, with a special focus on liver enzymes, as were urinalyses. Magnetic resonance imaging scans were obtained before explantation; for two patients, the scans revealed a fluid level separating two liquid layers in an intact prosthesis. This is the first report of such a finding. The removed implants were examined for any damage or shell deterioration and for changes in color and viscosity, the weights and volumes were measured and compared with the initial values for the implanted prostheses, and complete biochemical analyses of the accumulated fluid in cases of ruptured prostheses and of the filler material in cases of intact prostheses were performed. This small but well-documented series illustrates the multitude of problems associated with triglyceride-filled implants, including bleeding of the triglyceride filler; shell deterioration, as indicated by a loss of texture and extreme fragility of the implant (with rupture or delamination with a simple finger touch); an increase in osmotic pressure exerted by the degraded filler material; progressive weakening of the outer silicone shell, with influx of plasma proteins of up to 750 kDa, eventually resulting in rupture of the prosthesis; a lack of oxidative stability and the formation of toxic oxidation products; a lack of biocompatibility, with the formation of insoluble organic soap-like material; and a pronounced inflammatory reaction. It is concluded that the sequential and/or simultaneous occurrence of (1) implant bleeding, (2) lipid infiltration of the silicone elastomer, and (3) inflammation attributable to oxidation products provides an overall explanation or unifying hypothesis for the wide variety of adverse events related to soybean oil-filled implants.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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