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NHS receives over 7,000 breast implant referrals

Over 450 women have already had their PIP implant removed

Mark Gould

Monday, 30 July 2012

A total of 7,504 women who had controversial PIP breast implants fitted by private clinics have been referred to the NHS according to latest figures.

Some 4,742 scans have now been completed and 583 women have decided to have the implants removed of which 308 women have already had the implant removed.

The majority of these patients had the initial PIP implant at either the Harley and or Transform clinics.

The NHS has contacted a further 881 women who had PIP implants under the NHS. Some 105 women have been scanned but 293 women have decided to have the implant removed of which 156 removals have taken place.

Any women who had PIP implants fitted on the NHS can get them removed and replaced free of charge. In Wales the NHS will also replace those of private patients while in England and Scotland the NHS will remove implants of private patients but not replace them.

The Department of Health says the point at which the NHS offer is completed will vary according to the circumstances of each woman. Some women will simply want reassurance, others will decide after clinical advice to have their implants explanted by the NHS.

The PIP breast implant scandal saw 47,000 British women affected. All the women were fitted with silicone implants containing industrial grade chemicals never intended for medical use. In December, the French government recommended their removal due to increasing evidence they could rupture. Women in France can get the procedure for free but the NHS and private clinics in the UK will only remove implants if it is deemed clinically necessary. As the company that made the silicone has gone out of business, patients have been unable to get refunds on their surgery.

In June an expert group under Bruce Keogh, the NHS medical director concluded the substandard silicone gel used in the implants does not pose a significant risk to women's health in the long term.

They say tests carried out in Britain, France and Australia showed no evidence the filler would damage cells or cause genetic mutations. Tests in Australia and France had also found no evidence it could cause skin irritation, contradicting earlier findings from French regulators.

The group's final report said that after 10 years, PIP implants had a 15% to 30% chance of rupturing. Other breast implant brands had a 10% to 14% rupture rate in the same timeframe. It repeated earlier advice that all providers of breast implant surgery should contact women who have or may have PIP implants if they have not already done so.

The experts said there was no need to commission further research into systemic symptoms reported by women with PIP implants – generalised pain, respiratory problems, anxiety and fatigue. Such symptoms were common to the general population and it would be difficult to establish a sufficiently robust control group with which to make a comparison, they said. Similar symptoms had been linked to other breast implants and previous studies had "uniformly failed to demonstrate any causal link between implants and symptom prevalence". In addition, "no evidence has yet been found that any of the chemical constituents of silicon gel are potentially harmful and no biologically plausible mechanisms have been suggested to link silicone gel with the symptoms described".

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