Breast implants could skew ECG results

New research from Monaco suggests that breast implants can impede electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings, leading to false readings and potentially incorrect heart attack diagnoses.

The study was presented June 21 at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual conference in Vienna, Austria.

"Our experience shows that breast implants make it difficult to see the heart with echocardiography because ultrasound cannot penetrate through the implant," said Sok-Sithikun Bun, MD, the lead author on the study and a cardiologist at Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco, in a statement. "We wanted to find out if implants also disrupt an ECG."

The study included 28 women with breast implants and 20 that didn’t have any. All the women were considered healthy and had no known cardiovascular diseases at the time of the study.

Researchers completed ECGs on each woman, which were then analyzed by electrophysiologists who were unaware of any patient characteristics, including age, sex, presence or absence of structural heart disease, and whether or not they had breast implants.

For the group of women without implants, all but one patient had a normal ECG. In the group of women with implants, 57 percent of the ECGs appeared abnormal.

"The main difference between the two groups of women was the breast implants so we think the abnormal ECG recordings were false readings due to the implants," Bun said. "Albeit echocardiography is difficult in women with implants, these measurements indicated that they had normal hearts and no structural heart disease, which suggests that there was no heart problem that could explain the abnormal ECGs."

In the study, Bun advised women with breast implants to inform their physicians before having an ECG to esnure they get the most accurate information about their heart health.

"Doctors should be aware that ECG interpretation can be misleading in patients with breast implants,” Bun said. “In case of any doubts regarding the diagnosis, blood tests need to be performed depending on the symptoms."