Cosmetic Surgery

Controversial ‘internal bra’ procedure promises a longer lasting breast lift

Orbix Medical

 (Orbix Medical)

A new breast lift procedure claims to give longer lasting support for women – acting like a bra inside the body.

It’s the novel Orbix Breast Supporting System, informally named the “internal bra.”  Developed by British surgeon Dr. Jian Farhadi, the procedure involves inserting a silicon sheet between a patient’s skin and breast tissue, which serves as the bra’s “cup.”  The sheet is then held up by silk threads that are screwed into the rib cage with small titanium anchors.

The final shape of the implants resembles the silhouette of the average pushup bra, holding up the breasts’ tissue underneath the skin.

Farhadi said the procedure is meant to provide a more permanent breast lift solution for patients whose breasts have begun to sag as a result of age, weight loss/gain or prolonged periods of breastfeeding.  He noted that many current breast lift surgeries – which raise the breasts by removing excess skin and tightening the surrounding tissue – do not always last long-term.

“In most breast procedures… the breast relies on the skin’s removal [for support], but the problem is the skin has been stretched for many years; therefore it’ll stretch again and sag again,” Farhadi, consultant plastic surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, told “You can do additional techniques, like inserting artificial skins or meshes to hold up the breast, but none has been successful enough to do in a routine way.”

With the internal bra, the breast is supported by synthetic materials inside the body, which shouldn’t degrade or stretch out over time.  Additionally, Orbix Medical Ltd., the company that offers the procedure, claims the technique helps patients to heal faster while minimizing the appearances of external scarring.

The Orbix system has been cleared for commercial use in Europe, as it was been successfully tested in Belgium in 2009, and it will undergo further review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later this year.  Over the next couple of months, Farhadi will perform the surgery on 10 patients at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London as part of an ongoing clinical trial.  So far, he has operated on three different women, who have all reported positive results.

“So far, it has worked very well,” Farhadi said. “The results have been very good; they all are happy with the shape.  And none of these patients have ever really complained about the pain [of the screws], so no major pain is associated with it.”

Yet some plastic surgeons are skeptical of the procedure, noting that so many foreign materials may cause an inflammatory reaction in the body. Additionally, such materials could potentially throw off doctors when diagnosing for cancer.

“Does this material mask the ability to detect early breast cancers by mammogram?  Will those screws in the ribs feel like a nodule?” Dr. Matthew Schulman, a plastic surgeon based in New York City, told “…We’re really concerned about synthetic materials in the breast causing confusion over cancer.”

Schulman agreed that many breast lifts fail to provide long-lasting lift, but he argued that there are currently many procedures that utilize biological tissues and are just as effective.

“[Like the internal bra] we can remodel the breast tissue on the inside and secure that breast tissue onto the ribs,” Schulman said.  “Sometimes we use a material called strattice, which is a pig skin material.  We’ve been using it for plastic and reconstructive surgery for a while.  [The pig skins] become incorporated into the person’s own body; our blood supply grows into the material as opposed to a synthetic material.”

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), breast lift procedures are surging in popular, having grown by 70 percent since 2000.  In fact, these types of surgeries have outpaced breast implant procedures two-to-one. As more women grow older and breastfeed their children, doctors predict the desire for breast lifts will only grow.

Farhadi hopes that the internal bra will serve as an alternative option for women who are considering this form of surgery, not necessarily as the standard for breast lifts.  And he noted that people shouldn’t be fooled by the operation’s nickname, as breasts will still require external support.

“The intention is not to replace the bra in that sense,” Farhadi said.