Breast surgery with implants represents the most widely practiced procedure in reconstructive and aesthetic surgery. Despite many improvements, capsular contracture continues to be the most common complication after protheses implantation and the main reason of unsatisfaction for both the patient and the plastic surgeon 1.
Usually, a fibrous capsule forms around the silicone implant as it is a physiological chronic inflammatory response to a foreign body. In 0.5 to 30% the capsule undergoes progressive thickening and shrinkage and produces symptoms such as tenderness or pain 2,3.
Capsular contracture is usually classified according to the Baker scale, which considers the appearance, texture, and tenderness of the breast. Severity of the contracture ranges from Baker grade I, when the breast looks natural, up to Baker grade IV when the breast is hard, painful, and deformed 4. Nevertheless, past studies have shown that the Baker score is highly subjective regarding the individual examiner 5.
The treatment of the capsular contracture may be surgical (i.e., capsulectomy or capsulotomy and implant exchange) or pharmacologic, through the inhibition of the inflammatory process 6.
Many studies demonstrated the effect that anti-leukotriene drugs have on reversing the symptomatology of the capsular contracture 1,7. But, to date there is no consensus on their off-label use because of their adverse effects, such as liver dysfunction, acute renal failure, nephrotic syndrome, systemic eosinophilia, Churg-Strauss syndrome, hematologic abnormalities, arthralgia, and myalgia 3,8.
In nature, there are several substances which have been extensively studied for their anti-inflammatory properties. In particular, boswellic acids inhibit the synthesis of leukotrienes via inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase 9.
Considering the therapeutic potential as well as non-toxic nature, we evaluated the efficacy and safety of using Capsulase® (boswellia serrata phospholipid INDENA®, palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), quercetin phytosome INDENA®, bromelain 2500 GDU/g, and vitamin E acetate, by Biosphaera Pharma srl) for treating established capsular contracture after breast surgery with implants.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
From March 2020 to June 2022, we considered the patients who came to our attention suffering from capsular contracture grade II to IV according to Baker scale in at least one breast after reconstructive or aesthetic breast surgery with implants.
Exclusion criteria were hypersensitivity to one of the substances or excipients, previous treatment for capsular contracture, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. Inclusion and exclusion criteria are shown in Table I.
Informed consent was obtained from all the patients included in the study.
They were taken 2 tablets of Capsulase® per day for one month and 1 tablet per day for the next two months.
The patients were evaluated clinically, according to the Baker grading system, by three senior plastic surgeons at baseline (T0), after 1 month (T1), 2 months (T2), 3 months (T3), and 6 months (T4). Responses were scored as either complete (return to Baker grade I), partial (reduction in capsular contracture index by 1), or nil (Baker grade the same despite therapy). Improvement was analysed with the Wilcoxon signed rank test.
The patients were also asked to answer a questionnaire which subjectively evaluated the consistency, shape and position of the breast and the presence of pain at baseline and until the sixth month (T0 to T4). Each outcome was rated on a four-point Likert scale (Tab. II).
We enrolled 28 female patients who satisfied our inclusion criteria. Their age ranged between 29 and 68 with an average of 48.6. Among them, 10 underwent primary reconstructive breast surgery, 8 had implant replacement for previous capsule contracture or prosthesis rupture, while 10 had augmentation mammoplasty for aesthetic purposes. The mammary reconstruction was monolateral in 8 cases and bilateral in 2 cases. A total of 48 prostheses had been implanted. The surgical approach was inferior hemi-periareolar in 14 patients, Wise Pattern in 2 patients, through the inframammary fold in 4 patients and through the mastectomy incision in 8 cases. They were used microtextured round prostheses filled with cohesive silicone gel in 14 patients and microtextured anatomic prostheses filled with cohesive silicone gel in 14 patients. The size of the implants ranged from 275 cc to 400 cc. In aesthetic breast augmentation patients, a retromammary pocket was used in 14 of them, while a dual plane pocket was used in 2 cases. A retromuscular pocket location was used in all the cases of breast reconstruction.
We found 42 breasts suffering from capsular contracture. Stratification of the patients revealed the following: 12 breasts were graded IV (28.6%), 16 breasts graded III (38.1%), 14 breasts graded II (33.3%). Since two patients who had bilateral capsular contracture (grade III and grade IV respectively) interrupted the treatment because of mild occurring adverse effects (stomachache), we considered a total of 38 breasts with capsule contracture. All the patients who continued the study were followed up for 6 months. Examination of contracted breasts after 3 months of therapy (T3) revealed a statistically significant reduction in contracture grades (Tab. III). Specifically, 14 out of 38 breasts (36.8%) showed a complete response, while 13 of 38 (34.2%) had a partial response. The remaining 11 of 38 (29%) demonstrated no response. None of the patients worsened. Thus, a positive response (complete or partial) was obtained in 71% of treated breasts (p < 0.05). When we examined the longevity of the response, we found that 21 up to the 27 breasts which had a positive result (77.7%) maintained the improvement until the 6th month (Fig. 1). We noticed the ones which improved the most were the breasts with a lower grade of capsular contracture (100% of Baker II, 71.4% of Baker III, and 20% of Baker IV).
The results above are summarized in Table III.
We also demonstrated an overall improvement of patients’ subjective perception, especially regarding breast consistency (50%) and pain (91.1%), apart from the Baker grade (Tab. IV).
Capsular contracture represents the most common and yet unpredictable complication after breast prostheses implantation 1. The development of a capsule around a foreign body is considered a para-physiological process 2. Nevertheless, an exaggerated inflammatory or local immune response may occur: the levels of cytokines and growth factors, such as IL-1, IL-6, TNF-α, and TGF-β, increase and some histological alterations of the fibrous tissue that surrounds the implant happen 2,10. Despite the numerous theories, the etiology of the capsular contracture is still unknown 2.
In recent years, several studies investigated the role of pharmacologic regulation of inflammation, specifically concentrating on the main pathway, the arachidonic acid cascade, to prevent and improve established capsular contractures 12. Leukotrienes have been reported to play a critical role in the periprosthetic fibrotic response 13. In 2002, a leukotriene antagonist (zafirlukast) was administered to women with contracted breasts, which resulted in a reduction of fibrosis 7. Subsequently, these observations were corroborated by additional evidence 14,15. The main limitation on the use of antileukotrienes drugs for capsular contracture is the weak safety profile which makes the risk-to-benefit ratio unfavorable 3,8.
Various natural substances were extensively studied for their anti-inflammatory properties. In particular, boswellic acids seem to have an anti-leukotrienes action 9. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in oily fish and food supplements, play a role in the arachidonic acid cascade and seem to have a positive impact in diminishing the thickness of the capsule which forms around silicone gel implants in mice 16. Menkü Özdemir et al. showed how cromolyn sodium, a mast cell membrane stabilizer, could reduce acute inflammation giving a lower foreign body reaction, mast cell count, and capsular thickness than the control, montelukast and zafirlukast groups in a rat model 17.
Some studies associate severe capsular contracture to the Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) and strongly recommend performing a CT/PET in those patients who present type IV capsular contracture and seroma or locoregional lymphadenopathy 18. The establishment of breast implant registries would represent the most effective tool for monitoring short and long-term complications and improving patients’ safety 19.
Our preliminary results point to a favorable response to the treatment of capsular contracture with Capsulase® for at least 3 months. Overall, 71% of breasts receiving treatment had a complete or partial response at 3 months. This response was maintained for 6 months (77.7%).
Although these results support the use of boswellic acids in this setting, there are limitations to this study. First, the lack of a placebo-control arm makes any conclusion preliminary. Furthermore, the patients were not randomized, making this study susceptible to bias.
As leukotriene blockade would be effective in an early phase of the contracture process, when inflammatory factors are still highly active, we assume that our treatment would work better on mildly contracted breasts. For more severe forms of contracture, surgery may still be the gold standard.
The treatment of capsular contracture with Capsulase® is supported by the results of our study. Although an objective improvement occurs especially in mild capsular contractures, the patients refer a lower breast consistency and pain relief. More prospective, randomized, double-blinded studies are warranted.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST STATEMENT
The authors have not signed any agreement with the sponsor that would bias the results of the research in any way. The sponsor was not involved in any phase of the study.
All the tablets of Capsulase® the authors prescribed to perform the study had been provided by Biosphaera Pharma srl and they had been given to the patients for free. The sponsor had no role in the study design, nor in the acquisition analysis and interpretation of data, nor in drafting the manuscript.
FD’A: A, O (revision of the paper).
LD'A: D, S.
CE: D, DT, S.
AZ: A, D, S, W.
A: conceived and designed the analysis
D: collected the data
DT: contributed data or analysis tool
S: performed the analysis
W: wrote the paper
O: other contribution (specify contribution in more detail)
This study conforms to the ethical guidelines of the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki - Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects, and written informed consent for the use of clinical data were obtained from all patients.
Figures and tables
|Inclusion criteria||Exclusion criteria|
|Capsular contracture II-IV Baker following:||Hypersensitivity|
|Primary breast reconstruction with implants||Previous treatment for capsular contracture|
|Primary aesthetic breast augmentation||Pregnancy|
|Tuberous breast correction with implants||Breastfeeding|
|Breast implant exchange|
|Symmetrization of the contralateral breast with implants|
|Patient||Age||Previous surgery||Incision||Position||Side and Baker Grade||Result (T3)|
|1||51||Implant exchange||Hemi-batwing||Subpec||R II, L II||Complete response (R, L)|
|2||68||Primary reconstruction||Batwing||Subpec||R IV||No response|
|3||48||Primary reconstruction||Periareolar||Subpec||L III||Partial response|
|4||48||Primary reconstruction||Batwing||Subpec||R III||Partial response|
|5||51||Primary reconstruction||LD flap||LD||L III||Partial response|
|6||48||Primary reconstruction||Batwing||Subpec||R IV, L II||Partial response (R) Complete response (L)|
|7||29||Primary augmentation||Periareolar||Submam||R III, L II||No response (R) Complete response (L)|
|8||50||Primary augmentation||Periareolar||Submam||R IV, L III||Partial response (R, L)|
|9||45||Implant exchange||Periareolar||Submam||R II, L II||Complete response (R, L)|
|10||33||Primary augmentation||Inframammary||Dual Plane||L II||Complete response|
|11||49||Implant exchange||Periareolar||Submam||L III||Partial response|
|12||57||Primary augmentation||Periareolar||Submam||R IV, L II||No response (R) Complete response (L)|
|13||54||Implant exchange||Wise Pattern||Submam||R III, L III||/|
|14||50||Primary augmentation||Inframammary||Submam||R IV, L IV||No response (R) No response (L)|
|15||51||Primary reconstruction||Periareolar||Subpec||R IV, L IV||/|
|16||48||Primary augmentation||Periareolar||Submam||L III||Partial response|
|17||51||Primary reconstruction||Batwing||Subpec||R IV||No response|
|18||29||Primary augmentation||Inframammary||Dual Plane||R III, L III||Partial response (R, L)|
|19||45||Primary augmentation||Inframammary||Submam||R II, L II||Complete response (R, L)|
|20||49||Primary reconstruction||Hemi-batwing||Subpec||R III||No response|
|21||54||Implant exchange||Periareolar||Submam||L II||Complete response|
|22||68||Implant exchange||Wise Pattern||Submam||R II, L III||Complete response (R) Partial response (L)|
|23||48||Primary augmentation||Periareolar||Submam||R II, L III||Complete response (R) No response (L)|
|24||48||Implant exchange||Periareolar||Submam||R IV||No response|
|25||50||Primary reconstruction||Periareolar||Subpec||R IV||No response|
|26||33||Primary augmentation||Periareolar||Submam||R II, L III||Complete response (R) Partial response (L)|
|27||57||Implant exchange||Periareolar||Subpec||L III||Partial response|
|28||50||Primary reconstruction||LD flap||LD||L IV||No response|
|LD: Latissimus Dorsi flap; R: Right; L: Left; Complete response: return to Baker grade I; Partial response: reduction in capsular contracture index by 1; No response: same Baker grade than before therapy.|