Blog — Notes of a Plastic Surgeon

Welcome to my blog. I am a plastic surgeon in Seattle and have been in private practice since 1991. I've seen more than a few interesting faces and cases through my years spent in the exam room, the operating room and the emergency room. And I have an opinion on just about everything relating to plastic surgery (and a lot of unrelated stuff). If you like my blog, let me know. Thanks for reading! Lisa

Louis Pasteur and why you shouldn’t worry too much about mold or fungus in saline breast implants.

Louis Pasteur in his lab.

I have had a lot of questions lately about mold and fungus in saline impants. I have even read online that some people think formerly sterile saline breast implants can somehow get filled with germs.  When I read stuff like that my thoughts go to the great French Scientist Louis Pasteur and your thoughts should too.   Pasteur contributed many, many great inventions and discoveries.  If you drink milk or wine, you can thank Pasteur for the safety of those two nourishing beverages.  If you and your children benefit from vaccinations, you can thank him for that too.  If you have pondered the deeper meaning of stereoisomers in your organic chemistry class, thank Louis.

But enough about that stuff and lets talk saline breast implants. One of Pasteur’s greatest contributions was the debunking of the myth of spontaneous generation.  You see, way back then before microscopes, microbes could not be seen.  When  something would ferment or rot or putrefy or suppurate (I’m making myself a little sick), it was believed that the agent of this process just materialized from, well, nothing. The noxious effulia that generated the aforementioned conditions was referred to as miasma.   

In a series of really elegant experiments using some custom made glass vessels, Pasteur showed that a liquid rendered sterile by heating would remain sterile unless it came into contact with something that had not been sterilized.  The infectious agent had to exist in the environment.  It just did not spontaneously generate.  He figured all of this out before even seeing those nasty little germs under a microscope.  Very smart guy. 

So what does this have to do with mold, fungus or bacteria in saline breast implants?  Every reasonable implant surgeon on the planet uses a closed system to fill an implant.  The saline that goes into the implant comes from a bag of sterile saline for intravenous use, into a sterile length of IV tubing and into the sterile implant.  The saline is never exposed to the air which can harbor spores and other creepy things we cannot see with the naked eye.  No contamination means the saline in the implants stays sterile. 

What about saline implants that leak from a tear or from the fill valve?  Yes, there could be some passage of fungus from the breast into the implants except that breasts don’t contain fungus.  The breast does often harbor some microbes in the milk ducts but the deep breast tissue is a pretty clean environment and the space where submuscular implants are placed is really, really clean.   

I have taken out a bajillion old saline implants and have never seen one that was contaminated.  I have had a few patients who were absolutely bummed that their implants were not contaminated because they had become convinced that they were.  Yes, I know there are photos of really nasty and moldy implants out there in cyberspace and yes it is obvious that some unreasonable surgeons don’t used a closed system but I think those cases are very, very rare.  Nobody posts photos of old, pristine saline implants (except me on my Instagram breastimplantsanity).  Pristine saline implants are boring.

Soooo, if you think your implants are moldy, you could be but probably are not right.  But as anyone who knows my practice, I will take implants out for any reason.

Thanks for reading and you should read up on Louis Pasteur.  The contributions he made to science are nothing short of amazing.  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

 

Category: Breast Contouring, Breast Implant Removal, Breast Implants, Stuff I love

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