The number of women left with misshapen and rock-hard breasts after implant operations has more than doubled in three years, figures reveal.
Last year, there were 377 reports of capsular contracture – in which the body formshardened scar tissue around the implant – up from 148 in 2013.
The complaints are logged by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency as ‘adverse reactions’.
Capsular contracture is a common complication in implant surgery, as the immune system can reject foreign materials in the body. Experts say it is a natural process and usually settles.
However, in some cases the scar tissue can tighten around the implant so much that the implant can become misshapen or even be squeezed out of the body.
Figures show a rise in capsular contracture – a complication of breast implant surgery (stock photo) which BAAPS has linked to women keeping implants longer
WHAT IS CAPSULAR CONTRACTURE?
Capsular contracture, an unavoidable complication of breast implant surgery, affects most patients to some degree. If it occurs, it is likely further surgery will be needed.
The body creates a capsule of fibrous scar issue about the breast implant as part of the healing process.
This is a natural reaction that occurs when any foreign object is surgically implanted into the body.
The scar tissue over time will begin to shrink at a rate and extent which varies from person to person.
In some cases, the capsule can tighten and squeeze the implant, making the breast feel hard or even eject itself from the body.
Causes can include bacterial contamination, rupture of the breast-implant shell, and leakage of the silicone-gel filling.
But the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons said the rise in the complication may be in part explained by an increase in women keeping implants in for longer.
Breast implants typically last 10 years and surgery is needed to replace them.
Caroline Payne, of BAAPS, told The Sun said: ‘The figures are slightly skewed as more implants are staying in for longer before they are changed.’
More than 7,000 women had implant surgery in the UK last year, according to BAAPS.
When capsular contracture occurs, they are graded. Grades III and IV capsular contracture are considered severe, and may require reoperation or implant removal.
Previous warning over cancer link
The figures have been released after a recent warning that ‘textured’ implants – designed to stay in place more firmly – are linked to a rare, aggressive form of cancer that is hard to treat.
The cancer is called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), and a study from Penn State College of Medicine earlier this month found that cases of it are on the rise.
They found that BIA-ALCL affects about one of every 30,000 women with breast implants and that almost all of these cases are associated with textured implants. Out of the 95 patients whose cases were reviewed, five died.
Because the researchers did not find any cases of BIA-ALCL reported before textured implants were used, they think that a causal relationship between the two exists. But the report stressed more research needs to be done to confirm this.