A comparison of autoantibody production in asymptomatic and symptomatic women with silicone breast implants

Gisele Zandman-Goddard, Miri Blank, Michael Ehrenfeld, Boris Gilburd, James Peter, Yehuda Shoenfeld*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Objective. We previously reported an increased preponderance of a broad range of autoantibodies in symptomatic women with silicone breast implants. The objective of this study was to investigate the frequency of autoantibody production in asymptomatic compared to symptomatic women with silicone implants. One hundred twenty-two asymptomatic women were recruited to our center for autoantibody detection through an advocate dealing with breast implant liabilities. Methods. Autoantibody detection in 86 asymptomatic women was done blindly on a panel of 15 different antibodies (dsDNA, ssDNA, histones, SSA/Ro, SSB/La, RNP, cardiolipin, phosphatidylserine, pyruvate dehydrogenase, Scl-70, NC-1, silicone, collagen I, II, and IV). Clinical variables, specific questioning about related silicone implant symptoms, and a rheumatological examination were performed blindly by a certified rheumatologist. The findings were recorded and at a later stage compared with positive autoantibody detection. The normal control group consisted of age and sex matched Israeli women without known autoimmune disease. In the positive control group were symptomatic women previously tested for antibody production. The autoantibodies were assessed by ELISA. Values from individual patients were considered positive only when greater than 3 standard deviations above the control mean. Results. The mean ages of 86 asymptomatic and 116 symptomatic women were 46.2 ± 11.2 and 45.7 ± 8.3 years, respectively. Breast implants were in place for a mean period of 8.2 ± 5.0 years in the asymptomatic group and 15.0 ± 5.6 years in the symptomatic group. The incidence of increased titers of autoantibodies ranged from 2 to 13% for 13 different autoantibodies among asymptomatic women. Among symptomatic women, 20% harbored 4 autoantibodies and 8% had 6 autoantibodies. The most common antibodies in the asymptomatic group were: dsDNA 8%; ssDNA 9%; SSB/La 13%; silicone 9%; collagen II 9%. No autoantibodies were found for NC-1, Scl-70, or RNP. Among the symptomatic group, the most common autoantibodies were histone ribosomal phosphate, SSA, SSB, Scl-70, cardiolipin, phosphatidylserine, GM2-ganglioside, and NC-1. Comparison of autoantibody incidence in asymptomatic and symptomatic women with silicone breast implants revealed an increased incidence of anti-SSB/La and anticollagen II in both groups. Polyclonality was more prominent in the group of symptomatic women with silicone breast implants, but also evident in 3 asymptomatic women. Conclusion. The mean duration of implant in the asymptomatic group was significantly less compared with the symptomatic group (p < 0.01). The development of autoantibodies may be related to implant duration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-77
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Rheumatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999


  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Silicone implants


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