FDA proposes new breast implant labeling with a boxed warning


Breast implants sold in the United States may soon require a boxed warning in their label, along with other label changes proposed by the Food and Drug Administration aimed at better informing prospective patients and clinicians of the potential risks from breast implants.

Dr. Patricia McGuire, plastic surgeon, St. Louis Mitchel L. Zoler/MDedge News

Dr. Patricia McGuire spoke at an FDA advisory panel on breast implants on March 26, 2019.

Other elements of the proposed labeling changes include creation of a patient-decision checklist, new recommendations for follow-up imaging to monitor for implant rupture, inclusion of detailed and understandable information about materials in the device, and provision of a device card to each patient with details on the specific implant they received.

These labeling changes all stemmed from a breast implant hearing held by the agency’s General and Plastic Surgery Devices Panel in March 2019, according to the draft guidance document officially released by the FDA on Oct. 24.

The proposed labeling changes were generally welcomed by patient advocates and by clinicians as a reasonable response to the concerns discussed at the March hearing. In an earlier move to address issues brought up at the hearing, the FDA in July arranged for a recall for certain Allergan models of textured breast implants because of their link with the development of breast implant–associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

The boxed warning proposed by the FDA would highlight four specific facts that patients, physicians, and surgeons should know about breast implants: They are not considered lifetime devices, the chance of developing complications from implants increases over time, some complications require additional surgery, and placement of breast implants has been associated with development of BIA-ALCL and may also be associated with certain systemic symptoms.

The FDA also proposed four other notable labeling changes:

  • Creation of a patient-decision checklist to better systematize the informed consent process and make sure that certain aspects of breast implant placement are clearly brought to patients’ attention. The FDA proposed that patients sign their checklist attesting to having read and understood the information and that patients receive a take-home copy for their future reference. Proposed elements of the checklist include situations to not use breast implants; considerations for successful implant recipients; the risks of breast implant surgery; the importance of appropriate physician education, training, and experience; the risk for developing BIA-ALCL or systemic symptoms; and discussion of options other than breast implants.
  • A new scheme for systematically and serially using imaging to screen for implant rupture that designates for the first time that ultrasound is an acceptable alternative to MRI and relies on a schedule by which either method initially screens the implant 5-6 years post operatively and then every 2 years thereafter.
  • Detailed and understandable information about each material component of the implant with further information on possible adverse health effects of these compounds.
  • A device card that patients should receive after their surgery with the implant’s name, serial number, and other identifiers; the boxed warning information; and a web link for accessing more up-to-date information.


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