Connection Between Autoimmune Disease and Breast Implants?

Healthy in 2007, I has saline breast implants put in. Loved them for 3 years. Health remained great except for hair thinning. Went in for a normal physical & doc said I have positive ANA 1:160. Had a bunch of testing, but no diagnosis. Scared, I had implants removed in 2011. I have made no changes in diet or lifestyle. My ANA went down to 1:80 a year later. Then to 1:40, year and a half later. Hair thinning stable. How do you explain??? I want to put implants back in, but I'm scared.

Doctor Answers 6

What if you had left your implants in and had the same lab results?

Breast implants have been the most exhaustively studied and tested products in the medical marketplace, and not just by implant companies. Dozens of studies by credible scientific entities (Harvard, Mayo Clinic, Canadian, European, and American university researchers) have found NO cause-and-effect between silicone gel (or silicone shell, saline-filled) implants and ANY autoimmune illness. And trust me, they've looked. Hard. Anyone who publishes a peer-reviewed, reproducible study that identifies a "real" problem with implants will immediately become famous, and not for just 15 minutes. So lots of "not-vested-interest" researchers who would benefit from "breaking" this news have tried and failed to make precisely the point you are concerned about.

I'm certainly not disputing the validity of your blood tests, or any individual patient's own personal experience. It's just that if you take 10 million women with implants and 10 million without, you can find examples of whatever you are trying to "prove." Put a few of them on Oprah and you've got a sensational show. Write about them and you've got a headline story.

What you DON'T have is valid science! Statistical analysis tells us that what you experienced is just as likely with or without implants. Any individual case doesn't matter to the mathematics of statistics, which is why it is so powerful in helping us decide what is fact and what is hypothesis. But of course, individual cases matter greatly to us as doctors, and to you, as an individual patient.

So if you want implants back in, you should do so with a truly safe knowledge that the science firmly supports that decision. You should not do so if you feel that this is something that you will always question, especially if your lab work abnormalities someday return.

You should simply know that to the best of our present scientific knowledge, implants did not cause your labs to go up or down; they simply happened to randomly coincide with the surgical steps that you underwent. ANA is a very nonspecific test, BTW. When a patient who does not have implants has an elevated ANA, how did implants "cause" that? And, of course, that happens all the time, for many different medical reasons. Unfortunately, since many internists, rheumatologists, and other physicians are unable to truthfully give an actual "cause" for these lab results, but may be aware of the years of controversy (but not necessarily the scientific studies) regarding breast implants, the implants become an "easy" reason. Some of these physicians may really believe silicone implants cause issues, in spite of the science!

Think about it--if silicone (regardless of what the substance is fabricated into--breast implants, chemo tubing, pacemaker insulation, finger joints, lubrication for needles and IVs, etc.) really caused autoimmune illnesses, then why aren't ALL of these silicone products removed from the marketplace? The answer IS:

There is no autoimmune problem with silicone (of any kind). For more information, click on the web reference link below. Be well, rest easy, and best wishes! Dr. Tholen

Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 255 reviews

No evidence implants cause autoimmune disease

Extensive study has been done looking at breast implants and autoimmune disease. Implants do not cause autoimmune disease. If you want breast implants, get them.You will love having them again

Michael Horn, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 54 reviews

Autoimmune disease and implants

I was involved in several studies as an investigator of autoimmune disease possibly caused by breast implants in the 90's at a major university.  The results of our work and others shows no correlation between your implants and autoimmune disease.  Several patients showed the same changes in their lab values as you after removal of their implants, but it this turns out to be coincidental and not truly significant.  If you would like implants, go for it.



Leonard T. Yu, MD
Maui Plastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Connection Between Autoimmune Disease and Breast Implants

Thank you for your question. There is no correlation between breast implants and autoimmune diseases. Good luck on a wonderful breast augmentation surgery.  Consult with a board certiifed plastic surgeon. Best wishes.  

Jeff Angobaldo, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 104 reviews

Breast implants and autoimmune disease

As you have read in all of the previous responses, the scientific literature shows that there is no relationship between breast implants and the development of autoimmune disease.   And lab results may be abnormal for a number of different reasons.  However, only you can make the decision about whether you want breast implants or not.  I would suggest that you discuss your concerns with your plastic surgeon; but if you decide that you don't want breast implants, then don't second-guess yourself -- that may be the right decision for you.  Good luck!  

Anureet K. Bajaj, MD
Oklahoma City Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

There is no link between autoimmune disease and implants

After allegations made in a television news report by Connie Chung, and then others, breast implants became the most studied devices of all time and, after exhaustive review, no links were found between them and autoimmune diseases. Breast implants are not a necessity. If you are scared, then live without them instead of second-guessing yourself. However, there is no known correlation.

Robert L. Kraft, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.