28 Apr 2012

Faulty breast implants needed proper testing: health group

5:38 am on 28 April 2012

A women's health campaigner says news that New Zealand women have received substandard breast implants shows there's an urgent need for medical devices to be properly tested.

Thousands of women are being urged to contact their surgeons to have their implants checked after confirmation that at least 12 patients received the French-made PIP silicone implants, which have been banned overseas, because of the risk of rupture and leakage.

The New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons said when the scare erupted, that they were not used in this country. But on Friday, the association said it appears some were imported privately and implanted.

President Howard Klein said the association is contacting all its members, but so far knows only that a retired surgeon implanted 12.

Mr Klein said the PIP implants were imported from Australia and used here between 2003 and 2006.

He believes they contained a different fill and not the industrial grade silicone found to have been used in France from approximately 2001.

But Mr Klein says any woman who had a breast implant during those years should see her surgeon, or another surgeon, to find out what kind of implant she had and to discuss any concerns.

The Health Ministry says there is no evidence of toxicity from substandard implants, but the Auckland Women's Health Council says a lack of regulation of medical devices is failing patients.

The council's Lynda Williams says the Government's medicine safety agency, Medsafe, has no way of tracking or regulating medical devices from overseas.

She says with imported implants, there's no way of knowing what's really in them, which means it's not possible for patients to give informed consent.

No need to panic, says surgeon

An Auckland breast surgeon and member of the council of the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation says there is no need to panic if a woman has had the PIP implant.

Belinda Scott says the implant may not have ruptured, but even if it has, she says it is not dangerous, it just needs to be dealt with.