Disappearing breast implant

A children’s song told us about the old lady who swallowed a fly.

But what about the lady whose body swallowed her breast implant?

This month, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article about a 59-year-old woman who said her body “swallowed” one of her breast implants while performing a Pilates routine.

(Here’s the link to the journal article, but be warned, it includes photos)

Apparently, the woman is a breast cancer survivor who’d had a double mastectomy and afterward got breast implants.

The New England Journal of Medicine said the woman did a Valsalva maneuver – a breathing technique in which a person takes a deep breath and holds it while bearing down – during a Pilates routine. In other words, she was exhaling forcibly but without letting any air escape through her mouth or nose.

That move increased pressure inside her chest cavity. In fact, it built up enough pressure to send her right breast implant through the thin tissue between her ribs and into the space between her lungs.

Surprisingly, the woman didn’t experience any chest pain or shortness of breath.

She was taken to a hospital where surgeons removed the intact implant and repositioned it. The weakened space between her ribs (which was weakened by a previous surgery to repair a heart valve) was repaired with mesh.

As the story spread across the country, Pilates instructors started speaking out on blogs.

Pilates is centered on breathing and would never include moves that require one to hold their breath, they said.

“We do not do Valsalva maneuvers or anything like Valsalva maneuvers in Pilates. We do not hold our breath at all, much less against a closed airway. This woman may have been in a Pilates class but she was not doing Pilates,” wrote Marguerite Ogle, an About.com guide and Pilates instructor.

Don’t be deterred from Pilates because of one incident, they pleaded.

I think most people will agree – and hope – this swallowed breast implant case was a freak occurrence.

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