If you’re considering breast implants, you might wonder, what’s the difference between saline and silicone breast implants? Saline implants have long been a popular choice for certain breast augmentation patients, but silicone implants are typically a better option for over the muscle implants and breast reconstruction patients. Saline and silicone breast implants both have an outer shell made of silicone. The main differences in the implants are in the material and consistency. The implant shell can have a surface that is either smooth or textured. Implants with smooth shells, can move around subtly in their breast pocket, giving a similar appearance to the movement of a natural breast. Implants with textured shells, encourage soft tissue growth keeping the implant stable in the desired place.
Silicone implants are pre-filled with a thick, gel like fluid that give a look and feel of human fat. Most people find that silicone breast implants look and feel more like real breast tissue. Silicone implants were first created in the late 1960s, they were very popular, all the way up until the 1990’s, when people had some safety concerns and the popularity of saline implants grew. Since then silicone implants have had significant technological advances. In the early 2000’s, Silicone implants had been “redesigned” and after much research and testing, were found to be very safe and highly effective.
Saline breast implants are implants that have a silicone shell but they are filled with sterile salt water. These types of implants are inserted into the breast pocket empty and are filled after they are in place. For this reason, the saline implants can be inserted through a smaller incision. Due to the shape and the consistency of saline, this type of breast implant can feel like water balloons and do not have the same natural, fatty feel of real breasts. For some patients with very thin skin, “rippling” may be seen or felt as saline implant shell might be seen under the skin.
Saline and silicone breast implants pose similar risks. With any breast augmentation, there is a risk of scar tissue, that can distort the shape of the breast implant. This is called a capsular contracture. Another common concern when choosing the type of implant is the risk of rupture. While the risks are low, the differences of a rupture of the two different implant types are quite noticeable. In a saline implant, a rupture is noticed immediately. The implant will deflate, causing the breast to lose volume and change shape. The saline water will be absorbed by the body, without causing harm but the ruptured implant will require surgery to remove and replace it. In a silicone implant, a rupture can be much less noticeable. Some patients may never notice an implant rupture due to the gummy silicone inside the shell and because the silicone is designed to keep its shape. Many times any “free” silicone will remain inside the capsule formed around the implant, which prevents a change in the appearance. In some cases a ruptured silicone implant will cause a change in shape or size and your surgeon will recommend a removal, at which time they can replace the implant with a new one.
When it comes to breast augmentation, it isn’t one size fits all. At Gulf Coast Plastic Surgery, we offer Vectra 3D Imaging that allows patients to “try on” different types and sizes of implants BEFORE surgery. Your plastic surgeon, will discuss your options and help you choose an implant that will help you achieve your desired goal. If you’re interest in a breast augmentation, schedule a consultation with one of our award-winning, board-certified plastic surgeons, Dr. Peter Butler and Dr. Jocelyn Leveque.
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