Some seven years ago, a story was going around the Internet saying a woman’s breast implant saved her life after she was shot in the chest. “The bullet fragments were millimeters from her heart and her vital organs. Had she not had the implant, she might not be alive today.” Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon Dr Ashkan Ghavami told the Los Angeles Times in 2010. “She’s one lucky woman.”
Lucky, indeed, but could a breast implant really be a viable way to protect yourself from a speeding bullet? Some plastic surgeons at the University of Utah have been striving to find out.
The new study, published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, carried out a series of ballistics tests where the researchers shot a saline breast implant with a handgun to see if it can alter the bullet’s velocity or its trajectory, thereby reducing the chance of a gunshot injury.
They shot the saline implant with a handgun from a distance of just 2.5 meters (8 feet 2 inches). Behind the fake breast, they put a block of ballistics gelatin, a gel with a comparable consistency and toughness to human muscle tissue. They also shot the ballistics gel without the saline implant in front of it from the same distance.
Their research concluded a breast implant “significantly decreased ballistics gel penetration” by up to 20.6 percent decreased penetration distance. Without the implant, the bullet entered 40.2 centimeters (15.8 inches) into the gel. When the implant was in front of the gel, it embedded just 31.9 centimeters (12.5 inches) into the gel.
“You can think of them as tiny airbags,” lead author Christopher Pannucci told New Scientist. He added that his evidence suggests a breast implant could, in the right circumstances, protect the chest against a bullet wound, as well as stabbings, a fall, or a car accident.
Nevertheless, it would be foolish to think a breast enlargement is a fail-safe way of surviving point-blank gunshots. The bullet still managed to fully penetrate the implant and 31.9 centimeters (12.5 inches) of the ballistics gel. Furthermore, this kind of injury would be likely to involve a ruptured implant, which can understandably come with a lengthy list of complications.