When Cynthia Hedgecock tripped on a broken piece of San Diego, California sidewalk in July of 2015, she had no idea that her ordeal was just beginning. Hedgecock is the wife of former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock, who served the city from 1983 to 1985. Following Mrs. Hedgecock’s fall, she reportedly suffered continued pain, but it was not until September of 2015 that she discovered both of her breast implants had ruptured in the fall and were leaking silicone into her bloodstream. The lawsuit alleges Hedgecock sought medical attention for "persistent breast pain and deformities," and that was when the discovery of the extent of the fall’s damage was revealed.
Hedgecock’s lawsuit claims that due to the fall she endured "serious personal injuries" and required an extensive period of recovery following the removal of the leaking silicone, ruptured implants and the subsequent implant replacement surgery. According to the lawsuit, Hedgecock states that the incident cost her and her husband over $25,000 in medical expenses. Her husband has joined the lawsuit as a co-plaintiff, alleging the accident and recovery of his wife caused him to suffer "loss of support, service, love, companionship, society, affection, relations and solace from his wife."
Though the lawsuit will not head to trial until later in 2017, it has already begun to raise a lot of questions about breast implant safety. Dr. Ryan Mitchell of Henderson, Nevada did not treat Hedgecock, but says that a fall like the one Hedgecock experienced could cause breast implants to rupture.
"Though breast implant ruptures are very rare, physical trauma from a fall or car accident certainly could cause an implant to rupture," said Mitchell.
Other causes of implant rupture include normal wear and tear, damage from surgical instruments, over or underfilling of saline implants, and in
extremely rare cases, from pressure during a mammogram. Mitchell says if you suspect your breast implant has ruptured, call your doctor as soon as possible.
"If you rupture a saline implant, chances are you will know relatively quickly, because your breast size will rapidly decrease in the affected breast," said Mitchell. "With silicone implants, it can be difficult to tell the implant is leaking because the silicone inside the implant is more like a gel, and leaks very slowly. It can sometimes take years before you notice you notice a silicone implant is leaking."
Unfortunately, that means silicone implants often leak for much longer, making it very difficult to remove the leaked silicone from the patient’s body, and often causing side effects like what Hedgecock experienced following her accident.
"We normally recommend patients schedule regular MRI’s every 2 to 3 years to monitor the health of their implants and breast tissue, but following a fall or other implant trauma, patients should schedule an emergency MRI as soon as possible to rule out any potential damage to the implant," said Mitchell.
As for whether Hedgecock will receive damages for her accident, that remains to be seen, but Mitchell believes no matter the outcome, some good has already come from the lawsuit.
"This lawsuit is opening up an important dialogue about breast implant care," said Mitchell. "Something that while important, has been historically too taboo to publicly discuss."