1994 Volume 43 Issue 2 Pages 79-87
We evaluated 100 referred women with breast implants (n=97) or silicone fluid injections (n=3) into breasts who developed various symptoms. All reported symptoms occurred at a median latency period of 6 years (range 0-24 years) after implantation or injection of silicone. Commonest symptoms were weakness (95%), fatigability (95%), myalgia (90%), morning stiffness (89%), arthralgia (81%), memory loss (81%), sensory loss (77%), headache (73%) and dry eyes and dry mouth (72%). Laboratory results revealed abnormal levels of serum immunoglobulins or complement in 57% and autoantibodies in 78%. Sural nerve biopsy was abnormal in 80% with the major finding of loss of myelinated fibers in 79%. Biceps muscle biopsy was abnormal in 58% with the major finding of neurogenic atrophy in 27%. Ninetysix patients underwent implant removal; 60% of the patients were found to have one or both implants ruptured with silicone spilled into tissue. At time of removal, a pectoralis major muscle biopsy was taken which was abnormal in 89% with the major finding of neurogenic atrophy in 55%. Biopsy of implant capsule was abnormal in 94% showing foreign body giant cells containing retractile material consistent with silicone in 69% whether or not the elastomer shell was ruptured. Silicone can cause a systemic autoimmune disease with a variety of symptoms probably due to a global activation of the immune system. Since our patients had objective laboratory and histologic findings together with a high rate of mechanical implant failure, further investigations are necessary.