When the FDA approved silicone gel breast implants for general use in breast augmentation a few years ago, one of their recommendations was to have the patients get follow-up MRI’s of the breast….”just in case” of an asymptomatic implant leak. While there is not very much good science to support this decision, especially in the first 5-7 years post-op when implant leakage is very rare, you just can’t argue effectively with the FDA once they’ve made up their mind.
At the 2011 ASAPS meeting, Dr. Brad Bengston presented some good data on an alternative method of breast imaging: high resolution ultrasound. This is the same technology that many women are familiar with from their obstetrician’s office – it’s commonly used to get detailed pictures of a baby’s face, while still in utero.
Turns out, it can also work nicely for imaging breast implants, and figuring out if they are ruptured or not. In Dr. Bengston’s initial small-scale study, the high-reolution ultrasound had equivalent sensitivity and specificity as breast MRI….at a fraction of the cost. And much more convenient too, as the imaging procedure can be done in the doctor’s office. MRI also has the drawbacks of being difficult for patients who are claustrophobic, and not permitted for patients with metal stents, pacemakers or internal surgical clips.
Dr. Bengston is continuing with his study, acquiring more data comparing the two imaging methods. This data, we hope, might convince the FDA that there is a better way for our patients.