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Checking up on Implants with Ultrasound?

Checking up on Implants with Ultrasound?

Ask yourself, are you doing all you can to ensure the safety of your breast implants? Most women probably aren’t and the reason may be money.

It’s true there is some maintenance required for silicone gel-filled implants. The FDA recommends an MRI screening to detect leakage after a number of years, but the scan isn’t cheap. The price tag scares a lot of women away. Seeing this as a problem for what would otherwise be a normal check-up, there is a new option being developed that may be just as effective and in some cases, FREE.

By Dawn Tongish

Costly Screening

When a woman decides to get breast implants, she probably doesn’t imagine there will be much upkeep with her new look – besides enjoying her new shape in plunging necklines and tiny bikinis. But think again! The FDA recommends a woman with implants be screened using magnetic resonant imaging, or MRI, three years after surgery and every two years after that. The screening will detect abnormalities like a shell rupture. The screening costs between $500 – 2,000 and usually isn’t covered by insurance, if the woman isn’t showing symptoms. For these reasons, women tend to skip the recommended screening. “Patients are turning a blind eye because they don’t have the money to spend,” says Dr. Ryan Mitchell. Mitchell says if women don’t think there is an issue, they won’t spend the money. “If they don’t see it and don’t feel it, they don’t think there is a problem.” But, shell leaks are often undetected because they aren’t felt nor seen. If they are left untreated, a leak can lead to a condition called ‘capsular contracture’, which can warp the appearance of the breast and even cause pain.

Ultrasound vs MRI

The MRI is still considered state-of-art technology for detecting leaks in silicone gel-filled breast implants, but a new alternative is catching on – Ultrasound. Plastic surgeons, like Dr. Mitchell, think high-resolution ultrasound is an effective option to screen patients without a big price tag. Mitchell purchased a machine where he practices at the Bengtson Center for Aesthetics & Plastic Surgery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He now offers breast augmentation patients the option to get scanned in the office, for free. “They come in yearly and it only takes about 10 minutes,” Mitchell says. He thinks the easy access and low cost will improve compliance and overall well-being for breast implant patients, without sacrificing quality. “There are characteristic signs of a problem, that you can see on ultrasound, that could indicate issues with the shell.” He says this will be highly beneficial to patients in many ways.


Ultrasound In An App

When a woman hears that her implant could ‘rupture’ she fears the worst consequences, but it’s important to know that leaking silicone implants don’t cause connective tissue disease, reproductive problems, or breast cancer. Still, scans are important to make sure a breast shell remains intact until it may be eventually replaced. With so many advances in technology, it’s not surprising that breast screenings arrive in app form, such as the new device Lumify. “This product isn’t actually sold, it’s just rented for about $200 per month,” says Dr. Richard Baxter. Baxter, a plastic surgeon in Washington state, opted to rent Lumify to have a high-resolution ultrasound platform in his office to offer patients. He says it is a cheaper option than an MRI for patients who are budget-conscious. “It is cost-effective for our patients and we get to offer ultrasound.”


The portable device is like a tablet and many believe it will be technology that will catch on because it’s easy to use. “I hope that ultrasound will become a good alternative because it’s so easy to do,” says Baxter. “Patients will be happy to return to their plastic surgeon and get that reassurance.” It’s reassurance that there isn’t a ‘silent’ leak, and it’s peace of mind that doesn’t cost a fortune.

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