The implantation of medical devices is extensive and varied and crosses all surgical specialties. Plastic surgery is no exception with the use of a wide array of implants from the face to the legs. The most recognized and largest medical device that is implanted in plastic surgery is that of the the breast implant. Having now been around for over fifty years, numerous types of breast implant manufacturers have come and gone. Today there are three FDA-approved U.S. manufacturers with dozens of different types of saline and silicone breast implants.
Every breast implant that is manufactured today as its own serial and identification number. When a patient is implanted, a sticker with these numbers is attached to a patient record which is faxed to the manufacturer, a copy is maintained in the plastic surgeon’s records and a plastic card is given to the patient. In essence, breast implants are very trackeable for the most part.
This brings to light a recent story out of Indiana. A serial number from a pair of breast implants served as a means of identification for a murder victim. A flight attendant working out of Chicago was found dead in the trunk of her car in northern Indiana. The coroner on the case knew that breast implants have serial numbers because of his spouse’s experience with breast reconstruction from cancer. With some research he located the victim’s breast implant manufacturer. The implants were then traced to the plastic surgeon who performed her breast augmentation surgery in northern Indiana. These implant records combined with photographs and dental records confirmed the victim’s identity.
The most common use of serial numbers in breast implants is when the patient needs to invoke their warranty due to a failed device for replacement surgery. While all patients hope that they never have to use their breast ID numbers in this fashion, many will. Forensic patient identification would be another potential use of breast serial numbers that fortunately few patients will ever have to use.
Dr. Barry Eppley