Medical Watch: Help for some women with breast implants problems


Posted on May 19, 2014 at 5:27 PM

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

A local women was too embarrassed to even tell her doctor about a problem she had with her breast implants. 

She had no idea other women suffered from the condition as well. Medical insurance won't help. So she wrote to Medical Watch for help, and it was just in time before things got serious.
The woman in her 50s we'll call 'Maggie,' did not want to reveal her identity. She nearly lost part of her breast from a problem with her breast implants. She got them in 1998 because one of her breasts was significantly smaller.

"It was extremely different and I really did notice it because I always avoided looking at myself in the mirror. I hated it so bad," she said.

She was embarrassed and told no one about the surgery.

"It was weeks after it had been done that I finally told my husband, and how I hid that from him I don't know to this day."
But over time her breasts changed. The implants felt like bricks. The manufacturers and health insurance would not pay to remove them. Her husband's medical problems meant she could not pay the surgeon  $8,500 to fix them.

"I can't afford to have this done and they're getting harder and harder and they hurt. It's miserable," 'Maggie' remembers.

After 15 years of suffering, she wrote to Medical Watch, desperate. 

"When you put them in, the body's going to form this capsule around it, to surround it,  but in some patients the body starts continuing forming this scar tissue," explained Dr. Kamran Khoobehi, an LSU Health Sciences plastic surgeon.

Dr. Khoobehi said 'Maggie' had capsular contracture, hardening of the scar tissue that normally forms around  implants. It was as high as 30 percent at one time. With newer implants and surgery techniques, it's become less frequent. But he says there are women with this condition who don't know it's a serious health problem and they should see a plastic surgeon for treatment options. Dr. Khoobehi agreed to donate his time to help 'Maggie.' He used her case to teach other LSU Health Sciences center plastic surgery residents.

The morning of the surgery, 'Maggie' is nervous.

"Yeah, I am  a little bit but I'm glad that it's here and it's going to be over soon," she says right before she gets anesthesia.

Surgery day was in February 2013. Operating room time took much longer than anticipated.

Dr. Khoobehi says this is one of the worst scarred down capsules he's seen in a saline implant. In fact, one of the nurses in the O.R. described the scales inside of the scar tissue as feeling like crawfish shells.

Sharp pieces of calcium had formed along with the hardened scar tissue. He removed the saline implants from in front of the muscle and put new leak-proof silicone ones behind the muscle. He did a lift, and then took some abdomen fat and put it in her breasts, because the skin had become so thin. 'Maggie' had a lack of blood supply to her right nipple and areola, had she waiting any longer she would have lost them.

"We have found out that, in general, it is less likely to get capsular contracture, or less detectable, if you go underneath the muscle," explained Dr. Khoobehi.

Dr. Khoobehi showed us before and after pictures of patients who were in pain. Genetics, low grade  infection or reaction to the blood during surgery can cause capsular contracture. Solutions vary depending on the patient. Some only replace the implant with their own fat. He worries if women wait too long they could lose more breast tissue, taking away treatment options for an attractive outcome.
Today 'Maggie' is getting over being reclusive, avoiding mirrors, feeling ashamed and guilty.

"Dr. Khoobehi helped me look like a normal human being. That's the way I feel now, because I felt like such a freak. I did. I felt horrible," said 'Maggie.'

The patient still has one more, less complicated surgery. It's to remove some scar tissue that formed near the area she nearly lost because of poor circulation from her condition.