Users’ guide to the surgical literature: how to assess an article about harm in surgery

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Clinical scenario

You are a new plastic surgeon in the community and you are referred a patient interested in breast reconstruction. The patient is a 35-year-old female school teacher who had a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy 2 years earlier, as she was a BRCA gene carrier. Since she is of a petite build with very little subcutaneous tissue or extra skin in the lower abdomen, you decide that she is not a suitable candidate for an abdomen-based autologous tissue reconstruction. You recommend the technique of tissue expansion and silicone gel implants. She is concerned, however, about the possibility of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) developing in her breasts. She read in a magazine recently that ALCL, an unusual form of breast cancer, has been occurring in patients who have breast implants. She is very concerned that she might be at risk and asks for your opinion as to whether she should proceed with the procedure or not.

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