Celeb plastic surgeon breaks ranks, says ‘breast implant illness’ is real
By Hannah Sparks
New York Post
An “influencer” surgeon with millions of followers on social media is calling out the medical community over what he views as painful myths about breast implants.
For some, having their chest augmented is a dream come true. For others, that dream slowly becomes a nightmare — in the form of a mysterious sickness dubbed “breast implant illness” (BII).
Now, Dr. Anthony Youn, a Detroit-based plastic surgeon of 17 years with a following of 4.6 million on TikTok, is making his stance known in the contentious debate over an illness that some doctors say doesn’t exist.
In an Instagram “reel” shared on Tuesday night, Youn held a silicone implant in one hand while pointing to the various symptoms that “Bre*st Implants cause,” written in text over the video: “Not in everyone, but in some. BII is real.”
“Throughout my training, I was told it [breast implant illness] was hogwash — and that’s what I believed,” Dr. Youn told The Post, noting that his “most common procedure is breast implants.”
He had always been “taught they were safe,” but later, he heard about lawsuits as well as websites and social media groups of women sharing their stories and autoimmune symptoms following breast augmentation.
For those who suffer from BII, symptoms may not appear for months after surgery and tend to reveal themselves slowly when they do. Pain, inflammation, skin rashes, hair loss, brain fog, joint aches, digestive issues and fatigue are all symptoms commonly reported by those who believe they are experiencing BII.
Many doctors have said — despite desperate pleas from sick patients — that BII is not real and that their symptoms must stem from issues unrelated to their implants. Refusing to suffer in silence, online forums, such as the private Facebook group for HealingBreastImplantIllness.com that boasts nearly 145,000 members, have formed to support those who believe they have BII.
When he discovered those speaking of symptoms online, he was becoming more interested in holistic medicine and “questioning his training.”
Now, Youn is breaking ranks with the medical establishment.
“Breast implants can cause a constellation of symptoms in some women, called BII,” he explained in the video. “Yes, I believe it’s REAL. But I also believe that most women do just fine with implants. But definitely not all.”
The condition is not technically medically recognized as no studies have firmly concluded that the procedure and materials used for implants could prompt illness, leading to a stigma that suggested these patients made it up.
“Plastic surgery literature is not supportive of the notion of breast implant illness,” he told The Post. He said “most” of the research in early studies were “done by implant device companies and plastic surgeons.”
“To the credit of our [plastic surgeon] societies, this has been a hot topic during the last few years,” he said, though there are still those who “still believe it’s a psychiatric condition,” suggesting that patients who complain of these symptoms are seen as “crazy.” One of his patients told him that another doctor “told me the see a psychiatrist” when she shared her symptoms.
Nevertheless, many patients have opted to go under the knife again and have their implants removed — an “explant” — as a result of the illness that left them feeling “poisoned.”
“A vast majority of my patients tolerate breast implants just fine,” he told The Post. No official diagnosis of breast implant illness can be given, but patients who have ruled out all other possibilities of cause of their symptoms with their primary care physician and specialists or those who simply wish not to have their implants any longer can seek out an explant.
“Your body, your choice,” said Dr. Youn.
Youn’s followers are thanking him for bringing more awareness to the issue.
“I was so sick,” wrote one viewer. “BII nearly killed me.”
“Thank you for being so REAL,” another added. “I’ve had many friends get theirs taken out because of symptoms like these, and their original plastic surgeons comment that it’s probably not from the implants (even if they’ve had a full workup to rule out everything else).”
As thousands have come forward with these inexplicable symptoms, the Food and Drug Administration in 2019 issued a broad statement to medical device manufacturers that produce implants, urging that more thorough research be done on their products.
In 2020, the FDA made an update to their analysis of breast implant devices.
“While the FDA doesn’t have definitive evidence demonstrating breast implants cause these symptoms, the current evidence supports that some patients experience systemic symptoms that may resolve when their breast implants are removed. The FDA is committed to communicating information the agency receives about systemic symptoms reported by patients with breast implants,” the agency wrote.
Despite breast augmentation being the most popular cosmetic procedure — about 400,000 per year in the US — “so many women don’t know about it [BII],” Dr. Youn told The Post. He also said some of his patients have been “shocked” to learn about BII in his office. “Awareness is so important,” he added.
Youn now uses his social platform to address the risks associated with breast implants and other cosmetic procedures. “You try to do right by your patients,” he said.