New Questions About Silicone Implants

What's the shelf life for breast implants? It depends who you ask. But everyone agrees that the longer they are in a person's body, the more closely they need to be watched.

"I think a good rule of thumb is to check them or possibly have them replaced at about ten years," said Dr. Deanna Attai, a breast surgeon from the Center for Breast Care.

Dr. Attai says the FDA is revisiting the long-term performance for silicone breast implants with good reason.

"I also think that what the FDA is trying to do is to find a reasonable way to follow these women long term to evaluate for any problems and catch problems early," she says.

Silicone breast implants have been back on the market for five years, after a 14 year ban. That doesn't mean federal regulators are fully satisfied they are safe.

An FDA video cautions that the implants may be linked to higher risk of a rare form of Lymphoma, although the risk is considered small.

The FDA panel meeting this week will consider ways to improve safety studies and better assess the overall performance of implants in real world use.

But regulators already believe silicone implants should not be considered permanent. Many doctors believe one in five implants will need removal within 10 years. Thus the 10 year rule, which is starting to take root in the field.

Women who undergo full breast reconstruction will have a higher likelihood of the need for removal. About half of them will need attention.

"Nobody expects that these are going to last forever," says Dr. Attai. "Your body changes and these might change with your body. There is also a failure rate. Sometimes there are ruptures or there are leaks that develop, so it’s important to realize that just because you have them put in, doesn’t mean they’re good for life."

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