eijing entrepreneur Cui Xi (not her real
name) is among the thousands of frantic
women calling their plastic surgeons since
it was uncovered that a French company
used sub-par industrial grade silicone for the
Th e 44-year-old says she is relieved to know her implants
came from the US, not France.
“My family and friends have also been calling me to
check on my health,” Cui says.
She says she also knows many other at-risk women are
reluctant to come forward and get checkups.
Hangzhou Plastic Surgery Hospital doctor Tan Xiaoyan,
who has been performing breast implant surgeries since
1985, says she has been so “overwhelmed” with calls that
it has disrupted her work.
Th e same is true for her contemporaries in such cities as
Beijing, Guangdong’s provincial capital Guangzhou and
Shanghai, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences’ Plastic
Surgery Hospital doctor Luan Jie says. Luan represents the
Chinese Medical Association’s plastic surgeons.
The company in question is the now bankrupt Poly
Implant Prosthesis (PIP). PIP was the world’s third largest
implant manufacturer and has sold about 300,000 prostheses
worldwide, Reuters reports.
Recipients’ anxieties grew when French authorities
urged 30,000 women in the country to replace or remove
PIP prostheses on Dec 23.
Some French complain the media has exaggerated the
potential dangers, as Reuters reports.
China’s plastic surgery association held a news conference
in Beijing last week to “be responsible and scientifi c”
in informing the public of the realities of risks.
Luan, who represents the country’s 37 leading implant
surgeons, says at least 100,000 women have undergone the
operation since the practice began in China 30 years ago.
Very few received PIP prostheses, as the company only
received approval from China’s State Food and Drug
Administration in April 2009. The scandal erupted in
Luan says the association has seen “rare cases” of ruptures
and unanimously agrees the risk of cancer is uncertain.
He points out the prostheses are not implanted in the
mammary glands, so they don’t aff ect such functions as
Th e State Food and Drug Administration told China
Daily on Dec 30 that it has started an investigation into
PIP products in China. It is also in contact with the French
side to evaluate the risks and to develop detailed suggestions
on settlements, the administration’s news offi cer Shen
According to an announcement that appeared a day later
on the administration’s offi cial website, 912 pairs of PIP
prostheses have been imported into China, 151 of which
haven’t been sold.
Th e administration says it has not yet received reports of
adverse health eff ects suff ered by recipients. It has called for
the end of PIP implant sales and for the start of recipient
Women with PIP prostheses should be wary of deformation
or stiff ening, the association says.
A growing number of Chinese are getting implants,
despite the cost of up to 60,000 yuan ($9,600).
Tan, from the Hangzhou hospital, says many of her customers
are previous customers’ daughters.
Luan says he had a client a week in the 1980s and now
has 200 a year.
Th e customer profi le has expanded from celebrities like
actresses to ordinary workers and housewives, he says.
Most are 20 to 40 years old.
He believes social transformation and higher incomes
are responsible for the increase.
“Decades ago, many of my clients were hoping for better
job opportunities,” Luan says.
“Now, more are doing it to feel better about themselves.”
Cui, the Beijing resident who got transplants, says she
did it to elevate her self-confi dence, although her husband
opposed her decision. She even advised friends to try.
“It’s a fulfi llment of my wish,” she says.
“I knew about the risks beforehand.”
Luan believes plastic surgeries are helpful for clients
with certain emotional problems, such as low self-esteem.
But operations can’t entirely solve their issues, he explains.
Association doctors say breast implants are only for
women older than 22, who are psychologically and physically
Tan, who operates on about 300 clients a year, says clients
must take psychological tests before their surgeries, and 5
percent to 10 percent are found unfi t.
“Plastic surgeons are like psychologists,” Luan says.
“But we can’t repair broken marriages or ensure promotions.”