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PIP breast implants

Author: Abigail Frudd

Poly Implant Prosthesis (PIP) was a French manufacturer of silicone breast implants which were withdrawn from the British market in 2010 after around 47,000 British women (and 400,000 around the world, nearly half of whom were in South America) were fitted with them.  The majority of the  implants (95%) were fitted during surgery at private cosmetic clinics although some were fitted as part of reconstruction surgery following mastectomy for breast cancer.

PIP implants had been manufactured with unapproved silicone gel and, as a result, were twice as likely to rupture as other types of silicone breast implant. The silicone was found to be industrial grade and used in items such as mattresses but not approved for medical use in people.  Although rupture sounds alarming, it is not a serious health risk. Signs of rupture include lumpiness or swelling in and around the breast, a change in the shape of the breast, redness, pain and tenderness, a burning sensation and enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit.  It has not yet been proven whether PIP implants carry any long term health effects or an increased cancer risk.  If there are signs of rupture, imaging such as an ultrasound scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will confirm whether this is the case or not.

In the UK, a review recommended that there was no need for routine removal of such implants. However, if anxious or symptomatic then women should be able to have them removed if they want to. Around the world the response has been slightly different. In France there has been a call for all such implants to be removed as a precaution; Germany, the Czech Republic and Venezuela have taken the same stance. Despite the UK government taking a conservative approach, the opinion of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons has recommended removal of PIP implants as a precaution.

The French government is covering the cost of removal of PIP implants for the 30,000 women affected in France. In Venezuela removal costs are covered by the government but women will have to find the money for replacements. The Welsh government is likewise paying for removal and replacement of PIP implants.

Any PIP implants fitted as part of NHS treatment will be removed by the NHS. However, for those who had the implants fitted privately the remedy is not so easily obtained. Some private clinics have agreed to remove and replace PIP implants free of charge whilst others have closed down and some refuse to provide treatment without charge. The cost of such treatment privately is in the region of £8,000.

As a result of a recent case against German cosmetic-surgery certification agency, TUV Rheinland has been ordered to pay out £54.2 million clinical negligence compensation to 20,000 patients in Europe. This amounts to only £2,710 each, which will not meet the cost of removal and replacement of the fraudulently manufactured implants.  Of further small consolation to the women affected, the founder of PIP, Jean-Claude Mas, has been forced to apologise after being found guilty of aggravated fraud and sentenced to four years in prison. However, there has been no public apology from the cosmetic surgery clinics for using the faulty implants.

If you are worried about cosmetic or implant surgery under private or NHS treatment call our specialist clinical negligence solicitors on 01302 320621 for a confidential discussion.




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