The choice of implant filler, implant size, shape, and other features will be determined based on your breast anatomy, body type, and your desired increase in size. Your lifestyle, goals, and personal preferences, as well as your plastic surgeon’s recommendations and sound surgical judgment are also determining factors. Both silicone and saline breast implants are medical devices with a solid silicone, rubber shell. Both have also been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Approval means that an implant has been rigorously researched and tested, and reviewed by an independent panel of physicians for safety. Now, let’s focus on unique features of each implant.
Saline Breast Implants
Saline implants are filled with sterile saltwater solution similar to the fluid that makes up most of the human body. They are inserted behind each breast as an empty shell, and then filled once they’re in place allowing the surgeon to adjust the volume during the procedure if necessary. Saline filled implants provide a slightly firmer feel than silicone-filled implants. Saline implants are also generally more affordable than silicone. Drawbacks to these implants are risk of deflation and visible folds or ripples. Many women choose this options because they fear silicone and prefer a “natural substance” in their body despite the tested safety of silicone implants. Occasionally, breast implants may break or leak. Rupture can occur as a result of injury or even from the normal compression and movement of your breast and implant, causing the man-made shell to leak. If a saline implant ruptures, the implant will deflate causing the affected breast to change in size and shape. The leaking saline solution will be absorbed into the body and naturally expelled without posing any health risks, but the patient will most likely need surgery to remove the silicone shell at which time a new implant can likely be inserted. Saline implants are FDA approved for augmentation in women 18 years of age and older.
Silicone(Gel) Breast Implants
Silicone implants are pre-filled with silicone gel–a thick, sticky fluid that closely mimics the feel of human fat. Most women feel that silicone breast implants look and feel more like natural breast tissue. Patients with very low body fat or breast tissue to cover the implants often benefit from choosing silicone as subtle wrinkles and rippling that sometimes occur with saline implants are more obvious due to their frame. As in saline implants, silicone implants can occasionally leak or break. The elastic silicone gel may remain within the implant shell, or it may escape into the breast implant pocket (a capsule of tissue that surrounds the implant). A leaking implant filled with silicone gel may not deflate and may not be noticeable except through imaging techniques such as MRI. Leaking silicone gel isn’t thought to cause systemic or long-term health problems such as breast cancer which is a common misconception. Silicone breast implants are available to women 22 and older for breast augmentation.
When considering a breast augmentation, establish your own goals for the outcome of your breasts by doing your own research, and be sure to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon.