PIP breast implants 


If you are worried

  • Find out if you have PIP implants by checking your medical notes. You can get these free from your clinic or GP. If you had a PIP implant on the NHS, you will receive a letter.
  • Speak to your GP if you had them done on the NHS, or your clinic if you had them done privately.
  • Agree what’s best for you – get advice on whether or not you need a scan then discuss removal with your doctor.
  • If you decide you want your implants replaced, the NHS will do it free if your original operation was done on the NHS.
  • If your original operation was in a private clinic you will need to speak to the clinic to see if they will replace them free of charge.
  • If your private clinic no longer exists or refuses to remove the implants, speak to your GP. The NHS will remove your implants if your doctor agrees there is a medical need.

Women concerned about French-made PIP breast implants can find all the latest NHS information about the issue on these pages.

Worries about the implants have emerged since news of a major investigation into them in France was widely covered in the media in December 2011.

Initially it was thought that around 40,000 women in the UK had the implants but on March 15 the Department of Health said new evidence meant a further 7,000 women in the UK might have them. About 95% of the implants were provided privately for purely cosmetic reasons.

What’s the problem?

The French implants caused global concern after it was revealed they contained industrial silicone rather than medical-grade fillers and that they may be more prone to rupture and leakage.

Initially reports also linked the implants to a rare form of cancer known as ALCL. This cancer link has been now been firmly discounted by medical experts here and in Europe.

Tests have shown that PIP implants are more likely to rupture or leak silicone than other implants.

However, there appears to be no risk of dangerous toxic effects in the event of a rupture. Rigorous worldwide testing of the PIP gel material has not revealed anything that could cause a threat to human health.

If the implant does rupture, it may cause symptoms including tenderness of the area and/or swollen glands. There is no evidence that this causes any health problems.

For more information, read our pages on safety and regulation and warning signs of a ruptured PIP implant.

What type of implants are involved?

The implants involved are called Poly Implant Prosthèse (PIP) and were made by a French company of the same name.

In a Medical Device Alert in March 2010, the Medical and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said: " ... most breast implants manufactured by the company since 2001 have been filled with a silicone gel with a composition different from that approved".

That alert was based on advice from French regulators. However, after an investigation by the MHRA, the French authorities reported in March 2012 that PIP implants made before 2001 may also contain unauthorised silicone gel.

PIP gained approval to market its silicone implants in 1997 but it is not clear when it began using a cheap type of silicone gel intended for making mattresses.

The marketing, distribution and use of the PIP implants was suspended in March 2010.

Do my PIP implants need replacing? 

About one breast implant in five needs replacing within 10 years, whatever the make, so it is unlikely that all the 7,000 women who had PIP implants before 2001 still have the same implants.

An expert committee was set up to examine the specific risks associated with PIP implants. It concluded that there was not enough evidence to recommend their early removal. That advice has not changed. For more details, read the expert review group's final report (PDF, 162kb).

However, the committee said the NHS would remove and replace the implants without charge if patients that the NHS had operated on remained concerned. The government expects the private sector to follow suit.

Women who received a PIP implant from the NHS will be contacted to let them know they have one. If you are worried, you should book a consultation with your specialist or GP.

Some private clinics have said they will replace PIP implants free if clinically necessary.

For more information, read about your rights.

Last reviewed: 18/06/2012

Next review due:


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