Do I Have PIP Implants?
When news broke about the extent of the PIP crisis, thousands of breast enlargement patients UK-wide were united by just one thought: “Ohmigod! Do I have PIP Implants?” In that same moment, UK surgeons and cosmetic surgery groups became divided: those that did use PIPs and those who could hold their heads high.
Why Do Patients Not Know What Breast Implants They Have?
Hindsight is a great thing. Many patients saw no reason to doubt the word of their expert surgeon or cosmetic surgery provider that the implants they were having offered “the very best quality on the market”. Forums and phone lines are flooded with stories of implants sold via elaborate physical demonstrations supposed to ‘prove’ their durability. Often there was little or no mention of the actual implant brand name and, over the years, paperwork has become misplaced. This leaves panicking patients turning back to their providers but:
- Many smaller cosmetic surgery companies or private surgeons have long since gone into liquidisation – vanishing without trace
- Some providers have kept stringent records of patients’ procedures and products used. Some may even be able to tell you instantly that they never used PIP implants, so check their website for a statement. Unfortunately, this seems to be the exception, not the norm
- Many larger companies – like main culprits The Harley Medical Group and Transform – admit that medical records are only kept for 8 years after treatment so the many women who had breast enlargement before this time have a high chance their ‘medical records may have been destroyed’. Not good news as medical records are the only non-surgical way to confirm whether implants are PIP Click here for Harley Medical Group statements about accessing medical records
- Even for those whose medical records do still exist, the surge of requests from worried women was so enormous that many cosmetic surgery companies have been unable to cope. This has created a back-log in accessing medical records – or receiving the correct details! – which is, in some cases, still ongoing
How to Request Your Medical Records
Hopefully by now you already know whether you are a PIPette or one of the PIP-free fortunate ones? If, however, you are just starting to try and establish what the PIP crisis means for you, here are some tips about obtaining the required information:
- When requesting information (in this case, the make of your breast implants), you need to do this formally in writing, stating very specifically what it is that you want to know. You should provide your name, op date and the clinic where you had it done and send recorded delivery if posting.
- You should not be charged to access your medical records. See the statement from BAAPS in relation to this
- Requests to Transform should be sent to Lindsay Mullins, Transform Cosmetic Surgery Group, 192 Altrincham Road, Manchester M22 4RZ
- These are the main cosmetic surgery culprits involved in the PIP implants crisis. The format for requesting information from all other surgeons and groups is the same, however. Addresses can usually be found using search engines. If you can only find a telephone number, use this to call and get the address: do not make your request for data over the phone.
- Expect up to 40 days’ delay for your medical records information to arrive. After this time, you are well within your rights to complain and enquire again.
- If you were an NHS patient, you will be contacted by your hospital if you have PIP implants. If you are anxious and have not heard anything, try obtaining your records via your GP.
Harley Medical Group have an online PIP contact form for obtaining this information. Click here to access this
I have PIP Implants: What About Scans?
The issue of whether women need scans at all for their PIP implants is contentious. It is a question of time, money and jumping through hoops.
Essentially there are two types of scans you could have to establish whether your PIP implants are intact, ruptured or leaking silicone gel.
- Ultrasound scans use sound waves to create a real-time ‘moving’ visual representation
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans are more expensive but also more sensitive: although static, the image they create is a built into a 3D cross-section
The problem is that neither of these scan types seem to be proving particularly accurate with PIP implants. Whilst MRI scans do produce better results than Ultrasounds – particularly for showing ruptures – forums are full of women reporting gel bleed or ruptures when their implants were removed, despite a clean bill of health in their MRI or Ultrasound scan. The implications of this are severe: some women are being told “don’t fix what aint broken” and basing their decision to keep their PIP implants on potentially incorrect scan diagnosis’.
Another issue is arranging the scan. MRI scans privately can be expensive, ranging from £250-£600 depending where you go. Ultrasounds also don’t come cheap. GPs are being urged to arrange scans for patients, but they are under no obligation to do so and many patients have reported exceptionally long waits or reluctance from their GPs to refer them on the NHS if their PIPs were not NHS-implanted. Different cosmetic surgery companies have varying policies on scans and whether they help fund the costs. The Harley Medical Group, for example, suggests returning to your GP for a referral and provides a list of scanning facilities to refer to. In the event the GP won’t co-operate, they do say you can return to them but this is likely to involve a long wait. Transform fund scans for previous PIP patients if your GP refers or if you see one of their surgeons for a referral consultation. Some ladies have reported feeling uneasy with this referral consultation, however, saying it seemed used as a sales pitch to get them to return to the group for their subsequent surgery.
Do I Really Need A Scan?
A number of women therefore question whether they need a scan at all. If you are already certain that you want your implants removed, regardless of the outcome of a scan, you may wonder whether the cost and hassle of arranging and waiting for scans is worthwhile. The decision is essentially entirely up to you and, unless you have complications or a pre-existing medical condition which makes a scan more important, nobody should pressurise you into having a scan as an add-on.
However, a factor to consider in making this decision is whether you need to have scans in order to tick the boxes. Are you pursuing legal action, for example, against your initial PIP implant providers which requires a scan as evidence? Some cosmetic surgery groups, like The Harley Medical Group, do require scans as proof of rupture before surgery in order for you to qualify for their free removal or replacement (dependant on date of original procedure) offers.