Published December 15, 2011
BALTIMORE – A 59-year-old U.S. woman's breast implant was "swallowed" by her body during a Pilates stretching exercise -- forcing her to go under the knife to have it retrieved and reinserted.
The woman, a cancer survivor, had undergone a double mastectomy and had then gotten breast implants. Her ribs had also been weakened after a heart operation.
During a Pilates stretching exercise known as a Valsalva maneuver the woman reported that her "body swallowed one of the implants," according to the account published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
She attended Baltimore's John Hopkins hospital but did not report any pain. Surgeons retrieved the implant and placed it back where it had been.
Cosmetic surgeon Dr. Anthony Youn, who did not treat the woman, told MSNBC the case was a "freak occurrence."
"What likely happened in this instance is that the breast implant was placed under the chest muscle and on top of the ribs, an extremely common practice in breast reconstruction," Youn said.
"When the patient Valsalva'd, the pectoralis [chest] muscle likely contracted and pushed the implant through the space between her ribs.
"The weakened scar tissue was easily torn, and the strength of the pectoralis muscle pushed the implant deep into her chest."
The Valsalva maneuver is a breathing technique in which a person takes a deep breath and then attempts to exhale against a closed airway.