CSI – Breast Implants

Breast implants are a very common plastic surgery procedure that has not waned in popularity despite the recession. While they are unparalleled in making an instant body change, they have also make news for other interesting and unfortunate reasons. In the past year, these are the noteworthy breast implant stories you may not have read.

This week a California woman was sentenced to six months in jail and required to pay monetary reimbursement for ‘stealing’ breast implants as well as other cosmetic surgery back in 2008. Under an assumed name, the 30 year-old woman used a credit line in someone else’s name to obtain $12,000 in plastic surgery which included breast implants and liposuction at a plastic surgery center in Huntingdon Beach California. She pleaded guilty to burglary, grand theft and identity theft for using another woman’s personal information to obtain the surgery. How did she get caught you may ask? Police tracked her down using the serial numbers from her old implants, which she had removed when the new ones were put in.

In a similar scenario, but much more tragic, you may remember the murder of model Jasmine Fiore last August in California. The Playboy model mysteriously disappeared and was later found mutilated. With missing teeth and fingertips, she was initially unable to be identified as was the intent of the murderer. She was later identified by something her assailant had overlooked…literally…the serial numbers on her breast implants.

Proving that many criminals are dumb, most implantable medical devices today have serial numbers for tracking purposes as an FDA requirement. Usually the benefit of them on breast implants is for replacement and warranty reasons, but they also serve nicely as a human identification method that is more precise than fingerprints or dental records.

On a happier note, it was reported that a silicone breast implant saved the life of a California woman who was shot in the chest.  A woman working in a Beverly Hills dental office last July was struck by a bullet after one of the employee’s estranged husband entered the office and killed her with a handgun. On exiting, the gunman ran into another employee and shot her in the chest. Unlike her co-worker, she miraculously survived. According to the Los Angeles Times, one of her breast implants stopped the bullet and prevented any fragments from getting as far as her heart. A physician who took care of her at the hospital stated that the bullet fragments were just millimeters from her heart.

A forearms expert was later quoted as saying that the breast implant probably slowed down the bullet enough that it caused it to stop short of the heart. While its an appealing story, that is not likely. A silicone gel or saline breast implant would not slow any bullet fired at close range. Breast implants have the stopping power similar to that of Jell-O. More likely her sternum or ribs was the reason that the bullet was deterred from going any deeper. The intervening breast implant, however,  is happy no doubt to take the credit.

Breast augmentation and the implants needed to do them have weaved their way into the mainstream of American society, sometimes in ways not exactly as intended.

Dr. Barry Eppley