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Shotgun Injuries to Chest Lessened by Implant

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A recent case published in the International Open Access Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons presented an interesting case where a patient suffered two gunshot wounds. Interestingly, the close range shots resulted in a ruptured breast implant, and no other injuries.

The 59-year old woman was shot twice in the right chest by a shotgun through a door. She sustained two wounds to the right chest. Researchers in this case believe that the woman’s silicone implants prevented the chest cavity from being injured by the shotgun pellets, and prevented additional injuries to the area.

The year before, the woman had undergone bilateral augmentation mammoplasty with silicone gel implants. After the incident, X-rays showed that several shotgun pellets were lodged in the breast implant. The X-ray also showed that there was no free air, fractures, or any evidence of pneumothorax (lung collapse). However, several pellets were found near the sternum and pericardium (the membrane surrounding the heart).

The woman’s surgeon removed the implant, which was found to contain several pellets.

There is a minimal number of peer-reviewed literature or articles on gunshot injuries on females with breast implants. The researchers in this case found only two related articles — both of which were actually letters to the editor. The first, from 1994, described two gunshot wounds that resulted in the rupture of the implant that was subsequently removed, with the pocket drained and irrigated. The implant was not replaced in this case.

In the second case, the silicone implant that was damaged due to a gunshot, was treated by removal, irrigation, and replacement — all within the same procedure.

These cases described instances with a single gunshot, while the above described case was two shotgun wounds. The researchers in this case state that it is possible in all cases, that if it where not for the implants, the chest cavity could have been penetrated with the heart and lungs being more severely injured.

Dr. Thomas Wright, of the Laser Lipo and Vein Center says, “While I find the case interesting, breast implants should not be considered any type of ‘body armor’”. He continues, “I think that these cases are an anomaly, and that breast augmentation should be considered just that — augmentation.”