The "exploding" breasts of thousands of women with implants in France and the UK is a horror story all right, one that any Indian woman considering breast enhancement needs to pay attention to. These implants were manufactured by a French Firm PIP and contained inferior quality silicone, which leaked out of some, with all sorts of consequences.
Breast enhancement surgery has become common in India and the number of women flocking to clinics for this is on the rise. "In the past two years, the numbers of women seeking implants has doubled. They range in age from 22 to 65. Mothers and daughters even come in together," Dr Charu Sharma, plastic surgeon, says. Some procedures are done on women who have lost their breasts to mastectomy, or on trans people as part of gender reassignment surgery, but most are done on women seeking to make their healthy mammary glands look larger and perkier. "Body consciousness is at an all time high," Dr Sharma quips. "Negative comments from boyfriends and husbands prompt women to go for breast enhancement."
But breast enhancement procedures are risky and lead to all sorts of complications, especially if they are done by unqualified practitioners.
"Nowadays all sorts of doctors are doing cosmetic surgeries without the expertise or qualifications to do so - MBBS doctors and surgeons who do hernia and appendix operations are offering breast augmentation at a much lower price, tempting women who don't check their credentials," Dr Sharma says.
Concern is also mounting about the safety of the cheaply made implants which use low grade industrial silicone not intended for medical application.
Ideally, all breast implants should be procured through proper channels, which are approved by the Medical Council of India, but this hardly happens, say experts. "Chinese implants used in smaller clinics are of inferior quality and cost half the amount and those women who opt for these are at high risk of health consequences," Dr Sachin Dhawan, HOD, dermatology, Artemis Institute says. Silicone that leaks out of the bad implant into the natural breast tissue can cause a severe infection such as gangrene or toxic shock. "Rupture of implant happens when the gel being used is of low viscosity," Dr Sharma says.
US FDA approved implants should ideally be used, as these are "grade four" quality. "Established hospitals use the best implant in the market such as Myovate, which rarely if ever causes leakage," Dr Siddharth Sahni, HOD, breast surgery, BLK Memorial Hospital says.
Before opting for a breast implant, a woman should check the credentials of the doctor and clinic she has chosen to ensure she is making the right decision.
Breast implants done in India in recognised hospitals use FDA approved implants, which are approved by the Medical Council of India. "In this situation, if something goes wrong a person can approach the MCI. But where the breast implant is done by untrained people who use implants of an inferior quality which may not be regulated by the MCI, no action can be taken," Dr Anup Dhir of the Indian Association of Aesthetic & Plastic surgeons, Cosmetic Surgery Body of India says.