Breast implant illness (BII) is the name for a constellation of symptoms, which thousands of women have come to attribute to their breast implants—silicone and saline, textured and smooth. Maladies range from brain fog, memory loss, anxiety, fatigue, and joint pain to autoimmune diseases, skin rashes, hair loss, and more. BII is unrelated to BIA-ALCL, the rare lymphoma associated with textured implants.
Because BII itself is controversial and enigmatic—it’s not an official medical diagnosis, and there are currently no laboratory tests to prove or disprove its existence—patients often turn to social media support groups and BII websites for guidance and understanding. Within these robust communities, women share their implant journeys and encourage explant surgery, or breast implant removal, as BII’s only cure. They serve as advocates and advisors, swapping recommendations not just for explant-savvy plastic surgeons but also specific surgical techniques, detox protocols, genetic testing, explant pathology.
Oftentimes, women first learn of the procedure in patient-run Facebook groups or on affiliated websites like Healing Breast Implant Illness, which serves as a major BII resource center and information hub. Indeed, the site’s explant page, which many take as gospel, offers this strongly worded directive: “No matter what you read or are advised by a plastic surgeon about explant of breast implants, if you are symptomatic, all breast implants should be removed EN BLOC if possible and always with a TOTAL CAPSULECTOMY, no matter the type of implant.”
The problem is, “most patients don’t have a firm understanding of what these terms actually mean,” says Beverly Hills, California, board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Kelly Killeen, adding that about half of her practice is dedicated to the treatment of BII patients. “I believe them; I care about them deeply,” she says. “But with these groups dictating how surgery needs to be done, women are being led to morbid procedures and terrible outcomes.”