What are PIP implants?
PIP implants were fraudulently manufactured breast implants with a higher rupture risk. How can I tell if I have them, and how will that affect me?
Written by Medical Quality Manager, Clare , BN (Hons)
Medical Review by Chief Medical Officer, Mr. Dan Howcroft , FRCS (Tr&Orth), MBBS
Published: Wednesday, 21 September 2022
What was the PIP scandal?
Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) was a French company that launched in 1991. They made silicone breast implants. Over its 20-year existence, PIP is believed to have made around two million sets of implants distributed to clinics across the globe, mostly to Europe, Australia and North and South America.
By around 2009, surgeons in France reported an abnormally high rate of implant rupture, and concerns began to grow. This was followed by an investigation and subsequent recall and banning of PIP implants by 2010. Various enquiries were launched, and the PIP implants were found to contain an illegal, industrial-grade silicone and carried a significantly higher risk of split, rupture or leak. Some studies estimated that figure at two times higher, while other studies concluded the risk of rupture was up to 34 times greater in PIP implants.
Some allegations that the PIP implants increased the risk of a rare form of cancer known as anaplastic large cell lymphoma. However, a committee of British medical experts found no link between PIP and cancer. Nevertheless, while PIP implants may not pose an immediate danger to patients' health, many people still suffered from the distress and anxiety of having been fitted with riskier implants.
Around 50,000 sets of PIP silicone implants were believed to have been fitted during surgical procedures across the United Kingdom. Since the PIP scandal emerged, many of the patients who received the implants have had them removed. Nevertheless, the PIP scandal caused anxieties among the patients who received them and signalled a breakdown of trust between the medical industry and patients. The callous and criminal actions of PIP were met with a jail sentence for its managing director.
How did the medical industry change as a result of the PIP Scandal?
Yet, despite the distress caused by this scandal, some positives did emerge as a result. First, PIP implants were recalled, and you will never run the risk of being fitted with them.
Breast implants are now produced under more stringent regulations too. After 2010, the European Commission began working on new regulatory frameworks which called for greater transparency, safety and training standards. This became known as the European Medical Devices Regulation. It is a law that holds companies accountable, preventing them from sidestepping proper regulations and endangering patients’ well-being in the future.
Those who have experienced implant ruptures or experienced the anxiety of carrying these riskier PIP implants will know all too well the mental and physical distress it can cause. However, over time, medicine continues to develop, and with it, the safety and durability of the products available on the market continue to improve.
You can now rely on the medical industry to produce safer and sturdier implants; you can also help keep the risks at bay by picking the most experienced surgeon and following all the pre-and post-operative instructions as best you can.
How do I know if I have PIP Implants?
If you had a breast augmentation procedure before 2010, there is a chance you may have PIP implants. After the scandal made the news, some patients received a letter from the clinic or hospital where they had surgery to warn them of their implants and the higher risk of keeping them. Many patients, however, received no such letter.
If you fear you may have PIP implants from a breast augmentation procedure in the past, there are several ways you can find out for certain. First, you can contact the clinic or hospital where you had your surgery; they will have details in your hospital records. There is also a chance that your GP may have kept medical notes which will clarify the matter. You can also schedule a free consultation with a Medbelle surgeon; they will be happy to advise you on the matter and spell out your options in the future.
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