With the ballooning crisis over faulty French breast implants becoming a serious public health concern across Europe, some are taking a step back to review exactly how we we got here. The Guardian's Kira Cochrane just published a digestible and somewhat critical look at the first 50 years in the history of the chest-centric cosmetic surgery. One curious realization therein: a dog received the world's first implant. Cochrane recounts the situation of Timmie Lindsay, a Texas women who went to the doctor to get a tattoo removed and eventually ended up with the worlds first set of fake breasts:
The team was led by Dr Thomas Cronin, who had been developing the world's first silicone breast implants. Thomas Biggs, then 29, and a surgical resident under Cronin, says the idea came about when one of his colleagues, Frank Gerow, went to the blood bank. "They'd stopped putting liquids in glass bottles, and begun putting them into plastic bags," says Biggs, "and he was walking in the hall with this bag of blood, and felt that it had the softness of a breast." Around the same time, Cronin travelled "to New Orleans to a plastic surgery meeting and encountered a former resident of his. This fellow told him there was a company who had a new product which was interesting because it had very little body reaction, and could be made into a variety of thicknesses, a variety of viscosities, all the way from liquid to solid. If you can make a solid, you can make a bag – and if you can make a liquid, you can make something that goes in it."
Cronin had the idea for a breast implant. A prototype was created, and implanted into a dog called Esmeralda. "That worked OK," says Biggs, "and so then they got to Timmie Lindsey."
Astoundingly, the surgery went very well for Lindsay. "She's 80 today, still living in Texas, working night shifts in a care home," Cochrane explains, "and those first, experimental globes remain in her chest."