Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

A Woman's Breast Implants Saved Her Life From a Gunshot, Doctors Say

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

Doctors say a woman’s silicone breast implants deflected what could have been a fatal bullet, stopping it from reaching her heart. Amazingly, this is not the first time such a thing has been reported in the medical literature.

Advertisement

The miraculous bullet deflection was detailed earlier this month in a report published in the journal Plastic Surgery Case Studies, written by doctors in Canada.

According to the report, the 30-year-old woman had been walking down a street in Toronto in 2018 when all of a sudden she felt “heat and pain in her left chest.” Upon looking down, she saw blood seeping out of her body and took herself to a local emergency room. She had an obvious gunshot wound located above her left nipple and was transferred to another trauma center.

Advertisement

Further examination revealed that the bullet had ended up in the woman’s lower right chest wall, underneath her breast. But she was otherwise remarkably fine. Doctors removed both of her silicone breast implants and saw that the bullet had clearly traveled through the left-side implant, which deflected it over to the right implant with enough force that it flipped the right implant upside down. The bullet then traveled through breast tissue before finally becoming embedded in her right chest.

The woman’s right and left breast implants. Note the bullet tracts that can be seen in each.
The woman’s right and left breast implants. Note the bullet tracts that can be seen in each.
Image: McEvenue, et al (Plastic Surgery Case Studies (CC BY NC 4.0)

Because the left implant was on top of the woman’s heart and deeper chest cavity, it’s likely that the deflection saved her life. She suffered nothing more serious than a fractured right rib and the loss of her breast implants. After her implants and the bullet were removed, her wound was cleaned and she was given antibiotics as a precaution. Afterward, she recovered perfectly fine, lead author and plastic surgeon Giancarlo McEvenue told Gizmodo via email.

McEvenue and his colleagues decided to look for similar cases in the medical literature. They found four other cases where a woman’s breast implant had gotten in the way of a bullet, with at least two cases where the implant had likely been life-saving. In those cases, the silicone implant seemed to slow down the bullet enough to make it non-fatal. Scientists have also tested out in the lab just how effective implants could be at stopping bullets, finding evidence that they could definitely be the difference between life and death under the right circumstances.

Advertisement

But as far as McEvenue knows, theirs is the first case where it was shown that the implant deflected the bullet to relative safety.

Given the risk of further infection, they advised the woman not to get new implants for at least six months but noted there shouldn’t be any added risk for doing so afterward that time, McEvenue said. The woman was lost to follow-up, though, so he has no idea whether she ever did replace them. The mystery of where the bullet came from remains unsolved. Neither the weapon nor the person who shot it were ever found by police, according to the case report.

Advertisement

Science writer at Gizmodo and pug aficionado elsewhere

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

aintnobodygottimefordata
Ain't Nobody Got Time For Data

If they never found the weapon or the person who fired it, we can’t conclusively rule out a booby trap.