Munster, Ind. — An Internet-based, patient-driven registry for women who have undergone breast augmentation and reconstruction is designed to provide those individuals with easy access to accurate information about their implants.
As a rich database, the site also holds enormous potential for a variety of public service and research uses, Robert E. Frank, M.D., a board certified plastic surgeon who created the site, tells Cosmetic Surgery Times.
Dearth of data
"Accurate knowledge about the implants is critical to surgeons for planning the revision procedure. However, women often lose the informational cards they are given after surgery, the original medical records may no longer be available, and women who think they know what type of implant they received may be mistaken. This Web-based site provides an enduring and easily accessible record of that important data," Dr. Frank says.
Participation in the site is free for patients, and the information they input is password-protected to maintain confidentiality in accordance with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Patients must obtain a copy of their operative report or basic implant-related information to complete the registry page, and the system has online checks to ensure that the information provided by the patients is accurate.
"For example, if the style number corresponds to a 200 cc fill volume and the patient enters the fill volume as 400 cc, the system will identify there is an error and prohibit the patient from entering erroneous data," Dr. Frank explains.
He is hopeful that this registry will benefit from more widespread participation than an existing registry that depends on physician entries. Sponsored by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the latter registry includes data on fewer than 5 percent of implant procedures performed since its inception in 2001.
"Not only are few surgeons entering the data, but the ASPS-sponsored registry does not capture procedures performed by cosmetic surgeons who are not members of that organization. Non-ASPS surgeons may account for between 10 and 15 percent of breast augmentations," Dr. Frank explains.
The implant registry site has no commercial sponsor, but Dr. Frank is in discussions with representatives from industry regarding potential site support. Currently, information about the site is being disseminated to patients through other Internet sites they are likely to visit, such as message boards or informational sites for women who have had breast augmentation surgery. In addition, a Web site designer is working on search engine optimization so that the site will register as a "hit" when performing implant-related searches.
For his part, Dr. Frank is aiming to increase awareness of the registry among the surgeons who are performing the augmentation procedures and to gain their cooperation in encouraging patients to participate. Cards describing the site have been created for surgeons to give to patients and will soon be distributed with an introductory packet of information explaining the site and its goals.
Looking toward the future, Dr. Frank believes the registry can serve as a valuable resource for reaching out to breast augmentation patients with public service messages as well as for researchers conducting epidemiologic studies relating to breast augmentation. For example, participating women may receive newsletters, or, depending upon their age, be sent reminders about screening mammograms. In addition, researchers can potentially contact them for enrollment in sociologic studies investigating issues related to breast augmentation. However, the site is designed so that women will be free to opt out from being contacted, and Dr. Frank notes that it is not intended to collect information about complications.
The registry also holds potential to benefit manufacturers via its data on the numbers and types of implants being used.
"Since surgeons acquire implants on consignment, manufacturers can track the numbers of units distributed, but they have no idea of what is actually implanted versus what is still sitting on the shelf," Dr. Frank explains. "Therefore, current published data on breast augmentation represents only a ballpark estimate."