Breast Implants: Is There an Ideal Smoothness to Prevent Immune Reactions?

Recent research found that breast implants with a specific texture tended to result in a lower level of inflammation and immune reactions than other implants.

Women who underwent surgery for breast cancer and plan to get breast implants may want to consider a certain level of smoothness to potentially reduce the severity of immune reactions, according to a recent study conducted by researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Rice University and Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The study, which was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, found that smooth silicone breast implants tended to have a decreased risk in causing immune system reactions and inflammation in rabbits and mice.

While this study did not directly test in humans, the findings can have an impact on patients’ decision making, especially after concerns were raised a few years ago regarding cancer and other illnesses caused by textured breast implants.

“Our aim is to provide patients with as much information as possible so they can make informed decisions to guide their own personal health, said Joshua Doloff, study author and assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University who holds a post-doctoral degree, in a release.

More than 90% of breast implants used in the U.S. are smooth. However, previous research has found that completely smooth coatings can cause the implants to flip inside the body more easily, leading to a higher rate of replacement.

Doloff’s study compared immune responses from implants with five different surface designs. Those with 4-micron surface roughness tended to lead to the least number of immune reactions.

Human research conducted at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Costa Rican Institute for Research and Teaching on Nutrition and Health Foundation also found similar results in an analysis of 15 healthy patients; those with a 4-micron surface roughness had a reduced fibrous tissue formation surrounding the implants compared to the more or less texturized ones.

More research is needed in this field to better detect rupture, leakage or inflammation caused by breast implants, Doloff said.

"Engineers should know how something works, not just that it works, so we can improve on existing technologies,” added Doloff.

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