Data from a new study by Monaco’s Princess Grace Hospital cardiologist Dr Sok-Sithikun Bun indicated the potential of breast implants in hindering an electrocardiogram (ECG) and leading to a false diagnosis of heart attack.
The study included 28 women with breast implants and 20 women without implants as the control group, all of whom were of the same age, of good health and did not have any known structural heart disease.
Dr Bun said: “Our experience shows that breast implants make it difficult to see the heart with echocardiography because ultrasound cannot penetrate through the implant.”
Each ECG recording from the women was evaluated by two electrophysiologists to whom patient characteristics such as age, sex, presence or absence of structural heart disease and breast implants were not revealed.
One electrophysiologist reported that ECG recordings from the control group were normal and 38% of those from the women with breast implants were abnormal. The second electrophysiologist considered 5% of the control group and 57% from the implants group as abnormal.
As no structural heart disease was observed in these women, the abnormal ECG readings are believed to be due to the presence of implants.
Dr Bun also added: “T wave inversion is an unspecific sign but can indicate the presence of coronary artery disease, while ST depression indicates that a patient may have a heart attack.
“Doctors could mistakenly conclude that a patient with breast implants has a manifestation of coronary artery disease if they believe in the false ECG findings.
“One possible explanation is that implants may be a barrier that disturbs transmission of the electrical activity from the heart to the lead.”
ST depression and T wave inversion are the features of the ECG used to diagnose a heart attack.
Image: An electrocardiogram. Photo: courtesy of CardioNetworks/Drj.