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Medically Reviewed by:

Robert Applebaum M.D.

What is Breast Implant Illness?

Breast Enhancement

Breast augmentation with implants can create beautiful breasts increasing a woman’s aesthetic appearance as well as boosting her confidence.  But what happens if an implant surgery goes bad?  What is breast implant illness? How common is breast implant illness, and how is it treated? Let’s first start with the beginning, discussing how breast augmentation developed.

Breast Implants?

Breast augmentation is a surgery where the breasts are increased in size.  Breast augmentation includes placing breast implants under either the breast tissue or chest wall.  Breast Augmentation was first performed long ago, back in 1895. The first document Breast Augmentation was performed in Germany by a surgeon by the name of Vincenz Czerny. The patient was a 41-year-old singer that had recently had a tumor removed from her left breast.  Since then, the technique, innovation, and advancement in surgeon experience levels have led to a much more aesthetically pleasing breast augmentation. One advancement was the introduction of breast implants. The first Silicone breast implant was performed in 1962.

What an interesting story the way the first Silicone Breast Implant placed:

A woman by the name of Timmie Jean Lindsey was a factory worker and mother of six, living in Texas.  She scheduled a visit to the doctor’s office because she wanted a tattoo removed from her breast and had no intention of asking for breast augmentation. At the visit, Doctors Gerow and Cronin asked Timmie if she would like to be the first to undergo implantation of silicone breasts.  The doctors had recently tested their newly experimented silicone implants in a dog, but not yet a human. Timmie agreed to be their first human subject in exchange for them performing a surgery that she did in fact want, Otoplasty (ear pinning). Read more on the ati website 

Science has come a long way since then.  Over the years, several different types of breast implants have been invented.  The two categories of breast implants are saline and silicone.  Types of breast implants include: 

  • Saline breast implants: Saline breast implants help create a uniform shape and firmness.  Saline breast implants are composed of sodium and chloride; which is commonly known as saltwater.  Since saline breast implants have sterile saltwater, if an implant breaks, it can easily be absorbed by the body; without causing harm. 
  • Structured saline breast implants: Structured breast implants, similar to saline breast implants, contain sterile salt water.  In addition, they contain an inner structure, which allows these implants to feel more life-like.
  • Silicone breast implants: Silicone breast implants mimic the feeling of natural breasts, and are implants filled with silicone gel. Unlike saline implants, if a silicone implant leaks, the gel does not get absorbed. Instead, the silicone gel from the implant may leak into the breast pocket.  Silicone implants are monitored by the plastic surgeon and often order an ultrasound or MRI to evaluate that the implant is placed properly and not leaking.
  • Gummy bear breast implants:  Gummy bear breast implants are also known as form-stable.  These implants have the benefit of maintaining their shape when the shell is broken. This implant contains thicker silicone gel.
  • Round breast implants: Round breast implants create a fuller breast appearance.
  • Smooth breast implants: Smooth breast implants are soft and offer a more natural movement with the breast pocket.
  • Textured breast implants: Textured breast implants decrease the chances that the implants will become misaligned.  This texture of the implant promotes scar tissue to develop and stick to the implant, helping it stay in place.

Read more about the different types of implants on the American Society of Plastic Surgeons Website.

With all these options, how does one decide on which one to choose?  Take a look at some before and after photos of breast augmentation performed by Dr. Robert Applebaum to help you decide. Talk to an experienced plastic surgeon, who can recommend an implant that best fits our desire. 

Breast Implant Illness

What is breast implant illness?

According to breastcancer.org, breast implant illness, abbreviated BII, is a term used to refer to a wide range of symptoms that can develop after undergoing reconstructive or cosmetic augmentation with breast implants. Another common name for BII is autoimmune or autoinflammatory syndrome induced b adjuvants, abbreviated ASIA.  

Some symptoms are associated with an autoimmune or connective tissue disorder. An autoimmune disorder is where your immune system attacks your own body. A connective tissue disorder is one that affects the parts of the body that connect the structures of the body together. 

Examples include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma. 

Not all cases of breast implant illness have been found to be associated with an autoimmune or connective tissue diagnosis.


Symptoms of BII vary between patients. Some possible symptoms include:

  • Joint and muscle aches
  • Dermatitis
  • Dry mucous membranes (eyes and mouth)
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Hair loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Breathing issues
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Hair loss

How common is breast implant illness?

It is difficult to determine the incidence of BII occurrence for the following reasons:

  • Not codable: There is no breast implant illness diagnosis code available for plastic surgeons or other providers to use for diagnosis. This makes breast implant illness cases more difficult to track
  • No diagnosis criteria: There is no standardized criteria for the diagnosis of breast implant illness. Therefore, a definitive diagnosis can be difficult to confirm.
  • Variety of symptoms: The symptoms of breast implant illness vary from person to person, can occur when using various types of implants, and symptoms can develop at a random time after implants are placed.

How is Breast Implant Illness treated?

Treatment depends on several things, including the type and severity of symptoms.  Your plastic surgeon may recommend monitoring symptoms to see if they improve over time.  Alternatively, sometimes the implants are removed.  It is important to choose a plastic surgeon who you have developed a trusting relationship with prior to undergoing breast augmentation.  Your plastic surgeon will be caring for any complications you experience afterward, such as breast implant illness.  It is essential that you are honest with your plastic surgeon and share any symptoms that you are feeling.  This will not only create an excellent provider-patient relationship but also help your surgeon provide the best quality of care to you. Your surgeon will educate you regarding what symptoms to look for after surgery that are associated with possible complications.

Applebaum MD

Dr. Robert Applebaum is an experienced plastic surgeon located in the heart of Beverly Hills, California.  His patient reviews emphasize his compassion towards patients  and meticulous work. Read some of Dr. Applebaum’s patient testimonials.  

Dr. Applebaum has a reputation as one of the best breast surgeons because he customizes his procedures to each of his patients.  Dr. Applebaum will review the details for the procedure as well as the information regarding implant size and type will impact the breast shape and feel. You will also be made aware of the risk factors and possible complications. In addition, any underlying medical issues or risk factors will be discussed.  Dr. Applebaum will create a plan to help achieve a breast augmentation that achieves your desired aesthetically pleasing appearance while attempting to also increase safety and decrease the risk of complications.   Learn more about breast augmentation surgery performed by Dr. Applebaum.

Applebaum MD offers complimentary consultations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tele-consultations are available. This also means that if you live a long distance from Beverly Hills, you can still schedule a consultation with Applebaum MD.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Robert Applebaum

Dr. Robert Applebaum is a world renowned and highly respected Plastic Surgeon who is Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. In his nearly 30 years as a practicing physician, Dr. Applebaum has become known as an innovator in the field of laser technology techniques for plastic surgery procedures. He has published numerous articles and scientific papers about the use of laser technology and educates physicians worldwide on the applications of laser technology for plastic surgery. Dr. Applebaum primarily practices out of his private outpatient surgery center, Four Thirty Six Aesthetic Surgery Center, which is located in Beverly Hills.




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