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Breast implant illness and the strange case of Dr. Susan Kolb

Is there such a thing as ‘Breast Implant Illness”, a unique condition found in women with breast implants? With over 5 million women with implants in the U.S.A. alone, this would seem to be an important question to answer. Are there women who have breast implants and experience a dizzing array of medical symptoms? Of course. As of 2010, over five million women in the U.S. have had breast implants inserted. In any group so large, you are going to have women with all sorts of complaints or disorders. The question then becomes, are these caused by their implants, all or in part, or not?  


The dilemma for doctors and surgeons is walking that line between blaming every symptom on breast implants and ignoring the issue altogether. The truth, as always, is undoubtedly somewhere in between.


As a plastic surgeon who has always tried to practice evidence-based medicine with the best interests of his patients foremost (the reader will have to trust me on this), I have been troubled for years by the reports by women and some medical practitioners of illnesses supposedly linked to breast implants. I know, as do all plastic surgeons, that implants are not “100% safe”. Nothing in medicine is. The complications we are all familiar with include, but are not limited to, contracture of scar tissue around implants, leakage or rupture, visibility or palpability of the implants, malposition, development of calcium deposits on and around implants, and interference with mammograms. All of these are local phenomena, however, and do not necessarily reflect systemic toxicity or disorders of the immune system, which are the accusations made by women who claim their implants have made them sick.


If you are a woman who believes her implants made her ill, to whom do you turn? Unfortunately, many women, whether rightly or wrongly, feel that their plastic surgeons and even other doctors dismiss their symptoms as imaginary or, if real, not related to their implants. They feel marginalized by a medical community that seems incapable of understanding them or taking them seriously. This situation is tailor-made for someone like Dr. Susan Kolb.


Unlike many doctors and even non-doctors who have weighed in on the controversies surrounding breast implants, Dr. Kolb has legitimate credentials. She is a board-certified plastic surgeon practicing in Atlanta. Being a women gives her credibility among female patients, many of whom feel that male plastic surgeons and doctors are too quick to dismiss their complaints. In addition to this happy melding of gender and professional stature, Dr. Kolb adds yet another factor, which makes her truly unique: she is a breast implant “survivor” who has her own story of becoming ill from breast implants and then curing herself.  Women, who believe they are sick from their implants, home in to Dr. Kolb like moths to a flame.  


Dr. Kolb has established a practice which, if you believe her website and book, The Naked Truth About Breast Implants, From Harm to Healing, is ground zero for diagnosing and treating breast implant illness. She states that she draws patients from around the country and, indeed, from around the world seeking to be cured of their supposed implant related illness(es). Her book recounts heart breaking testimonials about the dangers of implants, including her own story, and the cures she has achieved with her surgery and detoxification protocols.


Now, as the late Paul Harvey would have said, for the rest of the story………………..


Dr. Kolb claims to have treated over 3000 patients made sick by their breast implants. She claims to have definitively established the diagnosis, cause, and treatment of breast implant illness. She has developed detoxification protocols in her practice for removing “biotoxins”, mold, fungi, bacteria, and toxic chemicals from women with implants. What are these protocols? We don’t know. Dr. Kolb won’t disclose them. The reason she gives is nothing as mundane as guarding a proprietary program or that she hasn’t the time or inclination to publish them. No, the reason is publication would put her life in danger. Colleagues have repeatedly urged her to publish her data and treatment protocols or, at least, share them with her peers so that these can be subjected to peer review and, if legitimate, utilized by others. Below is her response to such requests. These are direct quotes from Dr. Kolb herself, in a public forum with other physicians.


 “I have not published as it is not safe to do so. I had two years of frequency weapon attacks after writing the book, The Naked Truth About Breast Implants. I was treated frequently by an doctor who was

an expert in this area and survived attacks that probably would have killed most people according to the FBI agents who spoke to me after they caught the group in Europe that were targeting me.”


“I  had two years of frequent break ins to my home and business, GPS locators on my vehicles, bugs in my office, multiple reports with police telling me I was a target for assassination (from the information gained from investigating the break ins), and finally the FBI getting involved prior to a resolution of these events. Look up directed energy weapons (some were used in Cuba recently) and they are most often used to silence whistleblowers as they create cancer, heart attack, and severe infections.”


It gets worse……


                “There have been 60+ holistic doctors who died in the last several year under mysterious circumstances because they were promoting or using a protein which had a high cure rate for cancer.”


Another quote from Dr. Kolb:


                “Doctors have asked me to publish case reports but as I said earlier, I do not consider it safe to do so. If what I am saying is bunk, then how do you explain my clinical success? We could learn so much about all these diseases, just by understanding silicone, chemical, and biotoxicity with intracellular infections. Intracellular infections are politically incorrect as weaponized mycoplasma is the basis of our biological warfare system.”


Dr. Kolb does not provide anything to support the above claims. She does not explain who these people trying to kill her were, or why they are doing this. The implication is that some shadowy group- the government, implant manufacturers, or “Big Pharma”, are trying to silence her to protect their financial interests in providing dangerous implants to women. According to testimony below, she did not report these attempts to the police.


All of this came to a head at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, where Dr. Kolb once held staff privileges. In June of this year the final judgement was handed down by the Court of Appeals of the State of Georgia upholding the hospital’s dismissal of Dr. Kolb and revocation of her hospital privileges. The reason? Dr. Kolb admitted carrying a loaded gun around the hospital to protect herself from these alleged attacks and because there was a bounty on her head by the government or a silicone manufacturer. This made the hospital understandably nervous. If her allegations were true, they feared a shootout in the hospital, placing patients and staff at risk. If they were not, then Dr. Kolb’s mental state was suspect and they did not feel comfortable with a paranoid physician carrying a loaded gun in their facility. Dr. Kolb no longer has hospital privileges in any hospital.


This is scary stuff but if this were not enough, Dr. Kolb is quite open about her psychic powers and spiritual connections. Kolb has stated that years ago a “spiritual guide” spoke to her and told her to have her implants put in. She claims to do “remote viewing” and that the military has sought her out to do this for them. In remote viewing a person is given coordinates to a location somewhere in the world, goes into a darkened room and uses their “powers” to travel in a disembodied manner to that location. They can then return and report what they “saw” there. She also claims to have psychic powers that enable her to find things.


Dr. Kolb has expanded her interests beyond plastic surgery and implants. She claims to have solved the riddle of autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, interstitial cystitis, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, scleroderma, and multiple sclerosis. Although the ultimate causes of all of these have eluded generations of clinical researchers, Dr. Kolb has determined that all are caused by intracellular infections and a variety of “toxins” and claims her secret protocols cure these. More quotes from Dr. Kolb are below.


                “I know the cause of fibromyalgia as I have many patients (and not all with breast implants) who no longer have the disease after treatment of the yeast, mold, or less frequently mycoplasma infections.”


“I have had cures of scleroderma, pulmonary fibrosis, lupus, and RA because I understand the cause. The silicone acts as an adjuvant. Coinfections such as intracellular bacteria mold need to be treated. Mildew can also be a cause in Wegener's granulomatosis. The immune system needs to be restored. Mold and silicone, and chemical biotoxins need to be detoxed. Silicone gives us a great opportunity to study these illnesses. Too bad it is lost due to lack of critical thinking in most doctors who are too busy defending their belief systems.”


 Dr. Kolb uses applied kinesiology as one of her methods of diagnosing implant related problems. Applied kinesiology is a fringe area of medical practice utilized primarily by chiropractors, naturopaths, and holistic health professionals. It has been thoroughly discredited as a reliable means of making diagnoses.


There is more but the picture is pretty clear. Dr. Kolb is clearly an unconventional doctor. She does not hold a very high opinion of her more traditional medical peers. She states, “I would say that the majority of doctors have been brainwashed by their societies and the main stream media rather than seriously investigating this problem.”


 I have no reason to doubt her sincerity but I do have real reservations about her methodology not to mention her grasp on reality. Is this really the person women claiming breast implant illness want as their champion and spokesperson? Her reason for refusing to reveal details of her practice or make her results public sounds more like something out of Robert Ludlum novel than a doctor practicing evidence-based medicine. Her response to legitimate questions about her methodology and conclusions is to deluge the questioner with a barrage of rhetoric, attack the questioner, claim persecution by the “establishment”, or simply refuse to answer. It is not the first time I have seen a physician practicing questionable medicine resort to such tactics to avoid having to provide answers to these questions.  


Women who flock to Dr. Kolb and others like her are desperate for answers and relief and willing to suspend any concerns they may have about her odd persona and unorthodox methods. Of that I have no doubt. They feel that Allopathic medicine has failed them so far and, in that, they may be right. I also have no doubt that some are helped- we know the placebo effect means that as many as 20- 30% of people will respond positively to even worthless treatments- but I also believe that even the most pessimistic numbers would show that only a very small percentage of women have complaints of a systemic illness possibly related to their implants, on the order of 1-2%. Based on 28 years of experience with breast implants, I am also confident that in many women who are ill and have implants, the illness has nothing to do with their implants. I suspect that nearly every woman who has implants and doesn’t feel well will be told by Dr. Kolb that their implants are to blame. I fear that many will undergo unnecessary, and possibly disfiguring surgery as a result. Dr. Kolb performs extensive lymph node removal to treat breast implant illness. This is a major operation with potentially serious aftereffects. I am unaware of any studies that show that this is appropriate or effective.


Does breast implant illness really exist? The honest answer is: We really don’t know. It may occur but probably in only a very small percentage of women with implants. We need better epidemiologic studies by legitimate, rational doctors and researchers at reputable medical centers. Doctors like Susan Kolb certainly aren’t helping to resolve the issue. Women with breast implants, in whom the possibility of breast implant illnesses surfaces, deserve better than this.

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