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Survey health complaints of women with a silicone breast implant

Publication date: 11 October 2017
Modificationdate: 11 October 2017

This report provides a broad overview of the health complaints experienced by women with silicone breast implants in the Netherlands. This overview is the result of a survey performed by RIVM, by order and for the account of the Dutch Health and Youth Care Inspectorate (formerly the Dutch Health Care Inspectorate). Based on this survey, it is not possible to indicate whether the implants are the cause of the complaints. However, the results of this survey do provide a basis for follow-up research, which the Dutch Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport will assign to RIVM.

Women with silicone breast implants and health complaints were called to participate in the survey by means of an online questionnaire. The questionnaire has been prepared in consultation with a number of medical experts and the Dutch Foundation Support Centre for Women with silicone implants SVS. In total 976 women have filled the questionnaire. From these, 695 women indicated they experienced health complaints after undergoing one or more implantations. 281 women reported having no health complaints after receiving breast implants. It is unknown how many women with breast implants experience health complaints in the total population of women with a silicone breast implant.

Results

Pain in the breast(s) and capsular contracture were the most often reported local complaints. Chronic fatigue, joint and muscle complaints were the most commonly mentioned other, general complaints. Part of the women indicated that the complaints are serious and impede their daily functioning. Almost all of the women reported improvement of local complaints and slightly less than half of the women reported improvement of their general health complaints after explantation. In slightly less than half of the women the complaints did not change, and in a small group of women, the complaints became worse after explantation. Some women reported having health complaints before they received breast implants. In most cases, the complaints before implantation were experienced as less severe than after implantation.

Further research recommended

Given that a variety of factors can influence the development of health complaints, it is difficult to interpret possible patterns in the complaints reported. Some of the complaints seem to occur more frequently in women with certain characteristics. For example, women with certain chronic diseases such as allergies more frequently report general complaints. One of the recommendations in this report is to perform further research on this.

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