Breast Implant Illness

Written by Dr. Cross

Breast Implant Illness is a group of symptoms that can present is a small but meaningful number of patients with breast implants. Patients who present with possible Breast Implant Illness describe varying experiences, such as fatigue, joint pain, rashes, gastrointestinal symptoms, mood changes, and a wide range of other symptoms.

Dr. Cross believes Breast Implant Illness is a poorly understood disease and that science and medicine has not yet adequately studied. He has personally been asked to consult on and remove implants in a significant number of patients of the years. He has seen the presenting symptoms in these patients improve with enough regularity, that he is now convinced that there are some patients whose bodies just respond poorly to having implants in place.

When a patient presents to the office with a concern for Breast Implant Illness, a thorough history and physical exam is performed. Dr. Cross will also work closely with physicians that the patient has already seen, or bring in his team of physicians to rule out other, non-surgical causes of the presenting symptoms. Most often, however, removal of the patient’s implants is crucial to resolving the patient’s illness.

Treatment of Breast Implant Illness involves removing the breast implants with the entire surrounding breast capsule. The capsule is a thin layer of tissue that forms between a patient’s natural chest anatomy and breast implants. This form of implant removal is called an “En Bloc” resection. An En Bloc resection is necessary to ensure that all tissues that are in contact with the breast implants are removed. This helps to guarantee that no implant particles will be left behind in the patient. It also ensures that any fluid surrounding the breast implant is not allowed to come in contact with the patient’s breast tissue. The removed implants and capsules are photographically documented, and, when applicable, sent for further testing.

The removal of breast implants no longer has to mean that a patient is going to be left with saggy, deflated breasts. Dr. Cross has developed a technique for breast volume restoration that does not require foreign material. He takes fat from other parts of the body using a very gentle form of liposuction through small cannulas, often less than the diameter of a straw. For those who desire, this provides the added benefit of shape improvement in the areas where the fat is taken. He cleans and purifies the fat, and then builds back up the volume and shape of the breast using this fat. The incisions to obtain the fat are smaller than the width of a pinky nail, and the fat is placed in the breasts using needles that require no incisions. This is typically performed at the same time as the en bloc removal of implants for patients with Breast Implant Illness, so they wake up feeling not only healthier, but with breasts that have shape, volume, and projection. Dr. Cross has performed fat grafting in well over a thousand patients. Since fat grafting comes from the patient’s own body, there is no risk of rejection and no risk that the body will react adversely to the fat once it heals in its new position.

The procedure takes between one to three hours, depending on how much reshaping is necessary. Patients are able to go home the same day. They are typically in less pain that patients who get traditional liposuction because the removal of fat for breast shaping is performed using a more gentle technique to ensure survival of the fat. Normal activities can resume within a few days. Patients are asked to avoid strenuous exercising for 2 weeks to allow the newly placed fat to incorporate into the breast tissue. Once the fat has survived, it will live indefinitely in its new position and provide long lasting volume to the breasts.


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