A Qualitative Study on the Experiences of Women with Breast Implant Illness

Samantha Tang, Natalie E. Anderson, Kate Faasse, William P. Adams, Jill M. Newby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Breast implant illness (BII) is a term used to describe physical and psychological symptoms experienced by some women following breast implant surgery. Few studies have examined the experiences of women with BII-a poorly understood condition with no clear cause or treatment. Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore women's experiences of BII, including symptoms, healthcare encounters, social media, and explant surgery. Methods: Employing an exploratory qualitative methodology, researchers undertook semistructured interviews with 29 women who self-identified as having BII. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed by inductive thematic analysis. Results: Thematic analysis of the interviews identified 6 themes: (1) symptoms without explanation; (2) invalidation and invisibility; (3) making the BII connection; (4) implant toxicity; (5) explant surgery: solution to suffering?; and (6) concealed information. BII was described as distressing and debilitating across multiple domains including relationships, work, identity, and physical and mental health, and symptoms were attributed to implant toxicity and immune system rejection of foreign objects. When their experience was not validated by healthcare professionals, many looked to social media for information, support, and understanding, and saw explant as their only chance of recovery. Conclusions: BII is disabling mentally and physically. Women with BII require support, understanding, and validation, and proactive treatment to prevent disability. With unclear pathophysiology, future research should examine how biopsychosocial approaches can be used to guide treatment, and how to best support women with BII, focusing on early detection and evidence-based education and intervention. Level of Evidence: 4:

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-393
Number of pages13
JournalAesthetic surgery journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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