Breast augmentation surgery done outside US found dangerous


Teresita Morales' breast implant ruptured and leaked into her chest wall. This caused debilitating pain for the 43 year old, who feared cancer.

"I was thinking, what if my implants get removed and something is wrong with me? I have two beautiful daughters and I want to be with them," said Morales.

Morales had good reason to be scared. In 2003, she went to her native Venezuela to get breast enhancement surgery. She and her sister did it together. The surgeon gave her Poly Implant Prothese, also known as PIP silicone implants.

"The doctor told me, 'Oh, Teresita, we have the greatest, the latest implants from France. You're going to love them. They're amazing,'" Morales said.

That French company is now bankrupt. It never submitted the data required to get approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. So, the PIP silicone devices were never sold in the U.S.

Years later, patients who got them abroad like Morales discovered the implants were filled with non-medical grade silicone.

Implants are supposed to be clear. The type Morales received has spots. Reconstructive plastic surgeon Dr. Grant Stevens says many also contain machine oil.

"This industrial silicone gel is contaminated. It has a number of contaminants which can cause all sorts of problems including inflammation and other systemic disorders," he said.

Stevens says even the saline version of the PIP implants, which were sold in the U.S. for a short time, had faulty casings.

"Their shells are defective and they rupture four times more frequently than the salines we have here in America," Stevens said.

When Stevens removed Morales' PIP implants earlier this month, he found the contaminated gel had traveled to two of her lymph nodes. He removed the nodes and cleaned up as much of the gel as he could.

"We're not out of the woods yet with Teresita. We don't know the long lasting effects," Stevens said.

Like the hundreds of thousands of women around the world who've received these implants, Morales has no legal recourse. Some countries have set up programs to help women pay for removal but not for subsequent medical care. Stevens says despite the costs, he believes women with these implants should not wait.

"So those 400,000 women who have these implants should all have them removed," Stevens advised.

Morales said after the surgery, the pain went away. Looking back, she says she'll never get surgery outside of the U.S. again.

"Sometimes saving money is not worth it when it's about your health, your body," she said. "Now I feel like it's a miracle in my life. I'm going to start over again."

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