Adding barcodes to breast implants for safety

Posted Jan 1, 2017 by Tim Sandle
In an attempt to protect the health of women, the U.K. is to start having all breast implants barcoded. This is to stop previous problems with implants made from dangerous materials finding their way into medical centers.
A French appeals court has found German safety standards body TUV "fulfilled its obligations&qu...
A French appeals court has found German safety standards body TUV "fulfilled its obligations" in certifying breast implants that were found to be faulty and sparked a worldwide scare
Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP/File
The idea of using barcodes has come from the British Department of Health, and it is to avoid a scandal like the PIP breast implant scare of 2010. A U.K. report issued in June 2012 found the PIP implants, made from unauthorized silicone filler, had double the rupture rate of other implants.
Once the issue hit the media, the man who ran the Poly Implant Protheses (PIP) company, Jean-Claude Mas, attempted to flee and an international arrest warrant was issued. More than 300,000 implants were believed to have been sold globally by PIP over the last 12 years in some 65 countries (half of the exports were distributed to South America, including to Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Chile).
In addition, some 50,000 women in the U.K. had been fitted with the implants. The problem was that these implants were not lot tracked so it became impossible to determine which woman had been fitted with an implant from PIP or from a safer source. Barcoding should overcome this difficulty of traceability in the future.
Breast implant surgery – also called breast augmentation or enlargement – is classed as a type of cosmetic surgery. There are two types of breast implants. One type uses saline water in pouches; the other is silicone gel implants, which are available as a liquid, a gel, or a solid form similar to plastic.
Speaking with the BBC about the imitative, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt stated: "This can actually save lives for the NHS." The politician also explained a further advantage with the extension of bar codes for medical devices: "We also have a number of operations where the wrong implant is put into someone's body and then that has to be changed at a later date. If we use modern barcode technology, we can deal with a lot of these problems."
The scheme, dubbed Scan4Safety, has been tested out in six hospitals: in Derby, Leeds, Salisbury, Cornwall, North Tees and Plymouth. With a reported success, the new monitoring system will be rolled out throughout the U.K.