Breast implants are making it difficult for doctors to correctly identify heart attacks in women, the European Society of Cardiology warned in a statement Wednesday.
The report came after a study found that electrocardiogram (ECG) tests are unreliable if a patient has fake breasts. Wrongly diagnosing a woman as having a heart attack leads to unnecessary treatment, while failing to diagnose a person who has suffered a heart attack could do sizable damage and maybe even cause death.
“We do not want to frighten patients, but it may be wise to have an ECG before a breast implant operation,” said Dr. Sok-Sithikun Bun, a cardiologist at Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco, while presenting his findings Wednesday at the European Heart Rhythm Association Europace Cardiostim conference in Vienna, Austria.
The findings were based on an ECG trial comprised of 28 women with implants and 20 without, all healthy and between the ages of 30 and 50. Two independent heart experts, who had never met the participants and did not know whether or not they had had implants, interpreted the women’s ECG results.
More than a third of the scans from the implant group were interpreted as “abnormal” by these experts, but the women were cleared after undergoing other heart tests. For the control group, all ECG recordings were considered normal by one electrophysiologist. The other electrophysiologist classified the ECG recording of one woman as abnormal (5 percent of the total group). For the women with breast implants, one electrophysiologist classified 38 percent of the ECGs as abnormal, and the second electrophysiologist classified 57 percent of the ECGs as abnormal, according to MedicalXPress.
“We think the abnormal ECG recordings were false readings due to the implants,” Bun said. “We have two hypotheses. It might be the composition of the implant that acts like a barrier for the electrical signals coming from the heart. Or, it may be a slightly different position of the ECG electrodes due to the breast implants.”
“These findings will help those reading an ECG to avoid the risk of a false diagnosis and any unnecessary follow-up tests or treatment,” said Dr. Mike Knapton of the British Heart Foundation. He added that confusing ECGs could cause doctors to “mistakenly conclude that a patient with breast implants has a manifestation of coronary artery disease.”
“The main difference between the two groups of women was the breast implants so we think the abnormal ECG recordings were false readings due to the implants,” Bun said, and he advised women with fake breasts to inform their doctor before having an ECG.
It is not clear whether or not the size of the implant matters.
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