What’s New with Breast Implants?
Breast implants are used for breast enlargement and also for breast reconstruction. About 15 years ago, implants filled with silicone gel were removed from general use in cosmetic breast enlargement due to concerns with their safety. They remained available for use in breast reconstruction during this time. The silicone gel-filled implants were still used in Europe and elsewhere in the world for cosmetic enhancement as well as for reconstruction. While they were being used, information about the safety of the implants was collected and analyzed showing that the implants were very safe and did not cause any illnesses in women who had them. It also showed that if the implants leaked, the silicone gel did not get into the body and spread to glands and organs. Because of this very strong safety information, the United States FDA allowed silicone gel implants to be used in breast enlargement performed cosmetically. This approval occurred in November 2006.
What’s so good about silicone implants?
Implants are filled with saline solution (same fluid as an IV) or silicone gel. The silicone implants are softer and more natural feeling. This is most noticeable in woman with very small breasts, women with very thin skin, and women with very little breast tissue. A more natural look also is possible in these women since the silicone implants tend to have less waves or ripples. For women with denser breast tissue and thicker skin the differences may not be as big between saline filled and silicone-gel filled implants.
Are there any down-side aspects to silicone gel filled implants?
Two disadvantages about silicone gel implants are related to cost and leaking or rupture. The silicone implants cost more than saline implants so the overall costs for surgery with these implants are more than with saline implants. Saline and silicone gel implants leak or rupture at about the same rate, which is very small. If a saline implant leaks, the breast gets smaller, there is no pain and the body absorbs the saline fluid. Surgery is straight-forward to remove the implant and replace it with a new implant. If a silicone gel implant leaks, the gel is usually trapped by the thin scar capsule that is present around all implants. Over time, the capsule will usually get thicker and could lead to hardening of the breast, changes in the way the breast looks or to pain in the breast. The surgery to remove and replace the implant is a little more involved than with saline implants. However, even if the implant leaks, no overall health issues or illnesses will occur.
What’s the bottom line?
Women now have the choice between using silicone gel implants and saline implants. With your plastic surgeon, each woman can now decide which implant type is best for her.