ABOUT 1,500 Irish women are thought to have been given faulty breast implants in the last number of years.
The Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), produced by a French company that has since ceased trading, are said to contain an unapproved gel that becomes lumpy and granular, increasing the risk of tearing.
Up to 30,000 French women and 40,000 to 50,000 British women are also thought to have been affected by the recall of the implants, initiated in Ireland on March 30, 2010.
The Irish Medicines Board advised clinics using these products to identify and contact women who may have received them after January 1, 2001.
St Vincent's University Hospital and St Vincent's Private Hospital in Dublin have said that the PIP implants were not used in any procedure in those hospitals.
A small number of Irish clinics used PIP implants prior to the recall.
Consultant plastic surgeon Richard Hanson never used PIP implants, but has the following advice for women who think they might be affected: "What people should do first of all is to contact the clinic where they had their surgery done and get confirmation if they have them or not. Most clinics would have a record of what they used. Then they need to have a long discussion with the surgeon at the clinic that put them in and they need to know the risks associated.
"There is a high failure rate with them," he added, "so what they might want to do is have them removed and have surgery to have another implant inserted, or they can discuss it further and see if they can just monitor it closely."
But, for the women affected, there will be little chance of clinics paying out for implant replacements.
"Different facilities will have different arrangements," said Mr Hanson. "There are some breast implant manufacturers that would offer free implants if there was an implant failure, but because this company has closed down, there is no way they can offer a new implant. I don't think that the facilities will pick up the cost of supplying surgical costs, the clinic costs and the implant costs, so I don't know where the patient stands really."
A spokesperson for the Harley Medical Group confirmed that its Dublin clinic has used PIP implants in the past.
The spokesperson advised patients with any questions to make an appointment with their implanting surgeon. But the clinic would not be drawn on whether or not the women would receive free replacement surgeries, commenting "that would be entirely up to the surgeon".
A spokesperson for River Medical at Clane Hospital also confirmed last week that while PIP implants were used there in previous years, River Medical, the company that took over the Clane Cosmetic Surgery Clinic recently, had never used them.
In a statement, they told the Sunday Independent, "Prior to River Medical's purchase of Clane Cosmetic Surgery Clinic, a small number of Clane Cosmetic Surgery patients received PIP implants. Once the implants were recalled in March 2010 all patients were contacted and scanned. A small number of these patients had their implants replaced as per guidelines issued from the Minister of Health and the British Association of Plastic Surgeons. River Medical can categorically say they have never used PIP implants."
Other cosmetic surgery clinics, thought to have used these products, did not reply to requests for comment.