Warning Against Injectable Silicone for Breast and Body Contouring: Don't Do It!

Rod J. Rohrich, MD; Raja Mohan, MD


December 21, 2017

There is a growing trend for breast and buttock augmentation, and some patients seek treatment with illicit silicone injections[1] because these methods are not as expensive as surgery and provide a temporary improvement in appearance. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently released a report warning consumers against the use of injectable silicone for breast and body contouring.[2]

The use of silicone injections for breast or body enhancement can be referred to as "pumping."[3] Pumping, or the use of fillers for the breast or body, is also commonplace among the transgender community.[4]

Image from Alamy

The commonly used injectable form of silicone is an oil that is a liquid polymer of dimethylsiloxane. This form of industrial-grade silicone is typically found in lubricants and caulking materials and is not approved by the FDA for use in breast and body contouring. This oil differs from the silicone material used in breast implants and from the FDA-approved silicone oil intended for ophthalmic use. The industrial-grade silicone induces more inflammation because it has a higher viscosity and molecular weight.[5,6]

The FDA warning on injectable silicone (either in liquid or oil form) in breast or body contouring is due to the following risks: infections, chronic pain, silicone granuloma formation, permanent contour deformities, and embolism.[1] Some of these risks, which are widely reported in the literature, appear soon after receiving injections, but many can occur months or years after injection.[6,7,8,9,10,11]

Injectable forms of silicone are permanent, and the effects of treatment cannot be reversed.

Injectable silicone is often administered by unlicensed medical practitioners in nonclinical settings or in countries other than the United States.[8] These forms of injectable silicone are not regulated, and may have impurities and other agents mixed in.[12] The American Society of Plastic Surgery and the National Coalition for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Health have also issued statements warning patients about the pitfalls of silicone injections for breast and body enhancement.[6]

Injectable forms of silicone are permanent, and the effects of treatment cannot be reversed. The silicone can migrate within the body and produce foreign body reactions. Surgical excision, often in multiple stages, is required to remove the silicone, but it results in scarring and may not completely remove all of the foreign body material.[7] If the silicone is injected into a blood vessel, there is a risk for clot formation and possible risks for pulmonary embolus, stroke, and death. These complications tend to occur within the first few days after the injection and have been reported in the literature.[9,13,14]

Any patient interested in breast or body contouring should seek consultation with a board-certified physician or surgeon. These patients should not receive any silicone injections to enhance the appearance of their breast or buttocks.


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