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Dangers of foreign breast implants

February 23, 2012 8:10:58 PM PST
A global health scare involving foreign made silicone breast implants could affect thousands of American women. Those implants may rupture.

"Now we've gotten to the implant, "Son of a B****", it's ruptured," Dr. Paul Rosenberg said.

Plastic Surgeon Dr. Paul Rosenberg said that as he reacted in stunned disbelief when he started to remove a silicone breast implant from a young patient.

"This is all free silicone," Dr. Rosenberg said.

The young mother had appeared fine when she'd walked in, having no idea of the horror lurking within her body.

"It's all liquid," Dr. Rosenberg said.

She'd worried after learning of the global health warning about ruptured silicone implants manufactured by the now defunct French firm, PIP. PIP distributed hundreds of thousands of its implants to 65 countries, including several in Latin America. Although the implants were never sold in the U.S., it's believed many American women have them. The patient Eyewitness News met got hers in Colombia three years ago.

"At that time, my mom was over there, we were on vacation, and had time for recovery," the patient said.

The owner of PIP was arrested in the South of France last month, charged with using low-grade silicone in his implants.

"The implants that are made in the U.S. are approved by the FDA and inside of them is a cohesive gel, which means it's a pure type of silicone, there are no solvents, no other types of chemicals," Dr. Rosenberg said.

In the case of the PIP implants, the owner of the company has admitted to using industrial grade silicone.

"He's putting the kind of silicone you see in someone's bathroom," Wallace said.

"Correct," Dr. Rosenberg said.

"Did anybody tell you what kind of silicone this was when you were getting them?" Wallace asked.

"No, the doctor was very sure this was a good product. It was from France. It was the latest thing," the patient said.

"I believe the implant should be removed because it's a ticking time bomb," Dr. Rosenberg said.

Dr. Rosenberg started getting worried phone calls a few weeks ago. He has a number of patients originally from Latin America, or who have family there.

"So many have had implants done elsewhere and now they're in this country, and they have nowhere to go, they call Venezuela and Colombia, and their calls are not returned, and they panic," Dr. Rosenberg said.

And it turns out, for good reason. Fortunately, the patient has been given a general anesthetic.

"There's essentially no shell," Dr. Rosenberg said, "This is all liquid silicone in her body, in her body."

"Oh, my God," Dr. Rosenberg continued, "So, you're seeing gobs and gobs of silicone."

This patient would later tell Dr. Rosenberg she had felt pain on the right side of her chest for about a year.

"This is worse than you could have imagined," Dr. Rosenberg said, "Much worse."

"This looks like duo cement. This has an oily feel, this was absolutely in her lymph nodes," Dr. Rosenberg added.

He moved to the left side.

"This one wasn't as grossly damaged," observed Dr. Rosenberg, "but it doesn't mean there hasn't been tiny ruptures, separating from shell."

The woman will now have to be closely monitored for potential health problems.

"It's the worse case scenario," Dr. Rosenberg said, "It's lucky we took them out today."

Several foreign countries are now helping pay for the removal of PIP implants, but so far, not the U.S. government, because the implants weren't manufactured or distributed here.

As a public service, Dr. Rosenberg is offering to take out patients' PIP implants for free. They do have the option of paying for replacements that are FDA approved. He's hoping other doctors will help out as well.

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