(CBS) Stretching is supposed to help loosen your body, but can it cause you to lose body parts?
A 59-year-old woman was stretching during a Pilates class. Next thing she knew, her breast implant had disappeared into her body.
"I remember her saying, 'My body swallowed my boob,'" the womans' physician, Dr. Tiffany Fong of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, told ABC News.
Pilates is a system of strengthening and stretching exercises designed to strengthen the body's core and build flexibility, according to WebMD.
The woman was a breast cancer survivor who had previously undergone a double mastectomy and was fitted with implants. But more recently she had undergone heart valve surgery, which used the same incision as a point of entry. Fong said the woman had been cleared for exercise because her surgery was three months earlier.
Tests and an ultrasound were conducted, which revealed the woman's implant had lodged itself near the lung. Surgeons removed the wayward implant, repositioned it, and repaired the space where the implant slipped through.
The woman's case was presented in the Dec. 15 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. (Warning: graphic images.)
Should all women with breast implants avoid Pilates?
Dr. Jennifer Walden, an Austin Texas-based plastic surgeon, who was not involved in the patient's care, told CBS News there shouldn't be cause for alarm. "It's an extremely rare circumstance," she said.
Walden suspects the woman's heart valve surgery - which likely used a rib cage incision called a thoracotomy - may not have been entirely healed, and the "hardcore" nature of Pilates' stretching and breathing exercises may have pushed things over the edge.
"It's like a vacuum - negative pressure may have sucked in the implant," Walden said.
Walden said the rare case shouldn't deter most women who've had either type of surgery from exercising.
But just to be safe Walden recommends: "Speak to your doctor before beginning very strenuous core exercises such as yoga, Pilates, or contact sports."