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Mytien Goldberg, MD, FACS

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How do patients decide between silicone and saline breast implants?

Posted April 25, 2012 in Breast Implant

Women who are considering breast implants are always faced with the question of which type of implants to choose. In the US there are only two types of breast implants approved by the FDA. Patients are asked to make a decision between the two types of implants although they may have very little information regarding the differences. Both silicone and saline breast implants are housed in an outer silicone shell, but what’s inside that silicone shell can affect the way the implants sit, how they move, how long they last, and can even alter the overall price, even if only slightly.

Both saline and silicone breast implants are considered safe, and there are ongoing studies that continue to monitor the long-term effects of breast implants in order to maintain the highest level of safety. The silicone shell of saline breast implants is filled with a saline solution that some proponents argue is safer than silicone in the event of a rupture. However, the FDA has determined that there is insufficient evidence to link silicone to any hazardous effects. In the event of a ruptured saline implant the saline solution is generally absorbed into the body without incident, but the breast will rapidly lose volume and begin to change shape. The shell of silicone breast implants can be filled in several ways. One common silicone implant is filled with silicone gel while the alternative silicone implant has layers of softer silicone that is not gel but is quite soft and natural. The different fillers give each implant a unique feel and consistency. While each implant is safe, many women prefer the texture and consistency of silicone implants and silicone’s ability to create a more natural feeling breast. In the event that a silicone implant ruptures, the silicone will generally leak into the body much more slowly than a saline implant. The symptoms, if any, are usually mild discomfort around the breast as well as a similar loss in volume and change in shape to saline implants, but that will occur far slower.

While breast implants are now considered safe, it is important to realize that breast implants do have a shelf life and are expected to wear down after a number of years. For this reason regular scans are recommended and women should expect to encounter necessary maintenance down the road. Women who are seeking breast implants for aesthetic repair from breast cancer surgery should be aware that breast implants can make subsequent operations on tumors more complicated as the surgeon will be faced with maneuvering around the implant itself. It is best to speak with a doctor before making the final decision. Based on your body type and goals, your surgeon may recommend one breast implant over the other, but the final say will be yours.


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