The silicone breast implant changed the trajectory of the bullet away from the woman's heart

By Claudia Harmata
April 21, 2020 12:19 PM
Chest radiographs. Bullet is visible at center left.
Credit: McEvenue, et al (Plastic Surgery Case Studies)

A woman who was shot in the chest survived the gunshot after one of her silicone breast implants deflected the bullet from her heart, according to a report published in the journal Plastic Surgery Case Studies last week.

The 30-year-old unidentified woman had told authorities at the time that she had been walking down a street when she suddenly felt “heat and pain in her left chest.”

After looking down and seeing blood, she took herself into the local emergency room where doctors realized she had a gunshot wound located on her left breast, above her nipple. From there the woman was transferred to a trauma center for surgery, where she was reportedly in stable condition.

Upon further examination, doctors say that they found the bullet was lodged in the woman’s lower right chest wall, underneath her breast — which they say was not the expected trajectory of the bullet given its point of entry in the left breast.

Chest radiographs. Bullet is visible at center left.
Credit: McEvenue, et al (Plastic Surgery Case Studies)

“Based on trajectory of bullet entry clinically and evaluation radiologically, the only source of bullet deflection of the bullet is the left breast implant,” the report notes. “This implant overlies the heart and intrathoracic cavity and therefore likely saved the women’s life.”

Doctors removed both of the woman’s implants when operating to remove the bullet, and after clinically examining the removed implants, they found that the “deflection occurred within the implant” as the bullet was first passing through the left implant membrane.

nurse prepares implant for surgery
Nurse prepares a breast implant for surgery
| Credit: Getty

The left implant then changed the path of the bullet and sent it away from the woman’s heart and towards her right implant with enough force that it “completely flipped” the position of the right implant upside down, the report states. The bullet then traveled through her right breast before ending up in her lower chest

According to the report, aside from the loss of her breast implants, the woman only suffered a fractured right rib, and was sent home with antibiotics to prevent infection.

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Dr. Giancarlo McEvenue, a plastic surgeon and lead author of the report, told Gizmodo that the woman fully recovered after the surgery and was advised to wait at least six months before getting new implants.

The report states that “the firearm was never recovered, and the shooter remains unknown.”

McEvenue said that this isn’t the first instance in which a breast implant has protected a woman from a bullet. He and his colleagues found two other cases of silicone implants that slowed down bullets, making the gunshots non-fatal.