Patients may choose either saline or silicone breast implants for their breast augmentation. Silicone implants contain a firm silicone gel filling that, according to many, is similar to the feel of human fat and imitates the natural breast tissue better than saline implants. A report by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery says that of the 330,631 breast augmentations in 2012, 72 percent used silicone implants compared with 28 percent using saline implants.
Patients must be 21 years or older to receive silicone implants for breast augmentation in the U.S. They are available to women of any age for breast reconstruction. Generally, silicone implants cost more than saline implants.
Risks and considerations
Silicone implants may require regular post-surgery checkups, including possible ultrasound or MRI screenings to ensure properly functioning implants. Modern-day silicone gel implants are considered safe, but that was not the case when the implants first surfaced on the market in the ‘80s.
Silicone implants were banned for cosmetic use by the FDA from 1992–2006 due to concerns that they ruptured more often and caused health risks such as rheumatoid arthritis and connective tissue disorder. The FDA lifted the ban after reviewing modern research finding them no less safe than saline implants.
A patient may not notice that her silicone implant has ruptured. When silicone implants leak, they do not collapse or distort the breast shape. Still, a ruptured silicone breast implant may cause breast pain or change breast shape eventually. The gel may remain within the shell or may escape into the breast implant pocket. Though leaking silicone gel is not known to cause long-term health problems, your surgeon may recommend removal and replacement with another implant.
Scar tissue that forms internally and squeezes the implant, known as capsular contracture, is the most common adverse consequence of silicone and saline implants. Other risks include:
- Alteration of sensations in the breast and nipple
- Additional surgery.