Silicone-containing breast implants have been used since 1963 for cosmetic augmentation and breast reconstruction. Currently, there is intense debate regarding the extent and mechanism of migration of silicone from the area of implant. The current study compares tissue distribution of organosilicon polymers between women with and without silicone breast implants to determine the extent of silicone migration from breast implants. Samples were collected at autopsy from 15 individuals with bilateral breast implants with no known history of chest trauma and from 14 age- and sex- matched controls. Capsule, breast, axillary lymph nodes, abdominal fat, liver, lung, and spleen were collected for analysis of organosilicon polymers by atomic absorption spectrometry and for examination by light microscopy. Blood was collected for analysis of rheumatoid factor and antinuclear antibodies. Silicone was observed microscopically in at least one capsule section from all implant cases and in at least one lymph node in 8 of 15 implant cases. Silicone was not observed in lymph nodes from control cases. Organosilicon polymers were extracted from tissue using heptane, and the silicon content of the extract was quantitated by atomic absorption spectrometry. Silicon was detected in all capsules; statistically significant increases of organosilicon polymers were measured in axillary lymph nodes, breast, and abdominal fat from individuals with silicone breast implants when compared with the nonimplant group. Measurable amounts of organosilicon polymers were found in tissues from the nonimplant group. Suitable blood specimens were analyzed for the presence of rheumatoid factor and antinuclear antibodies. All nine implant cases tested were negative for the presence of antinuclear antibodies. Three implant cases which were tested for rheumatoid factor also were negative. We conclude that organosilicon polymers routinely migrate from the site of breast implantation to regional tissues near the implant site. Tissues from nonimplant cases often contained measurable amounts of organosilicon polymers, and tissue distribution was variable within any single individuals; this is consistent with the widespread use and form of organosilicon polymers.
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