The Big Question… Silicone or Saline?

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If you’ve ever thought about getting breast implants, you are probably aware that there are implants that are made of either saline or silicone.  Each type of implant has its positives and negatives.  While you may have read or heard various different opinions on the subject, it is important to consult with a plastic surgeon who can give you the facts about each type of implant and which type is best suited for you and your lifestyle. 

Both saline and silicone breast implants have an outer shell made of silicone.  The implant is then filled with either sterile saline solution or a cohesive silicone gel.  The outer shell of the implant can have a surface that is either smooth or textured. Implants with smooth shells can move around subtly in the breast pocket, giving a similar appearance to the movement of a natural breast. Implants with textured outer shells encourage soft-tissue growth, keeping the implant stable in the desired place.  

Silicone Implants

Silicone implants are pre-filled with a thick, gel-like fluid that gives a natural look and feel of human fat. Most people find that silicone breast implants provide the most natural look and feel. Silicone implants were first created in the late 1960s and were very popular until the 1990s, when concerns about a possible link to autoimmune diseases were first voiced.  Over the intervening 10-12 years, silicone implants when rigorously tested and evaluated.  Several improvements, including the use of cohesive gel, were made.  In the early 2000’s silicone implants were deemed very safe, highly effective, and regained popularity. 

Saline Implants

Saline breast implants are implants that have a silicone shell with a sterile saline (saltwater) solution. They are inserted into the breast pocket empty and are filled after they are set in place, which allows for the implants to be inserted through a smaller incision. Due to the shape and consistency of saline, there have been complaints about the texture being similar to water balloons and unnatural compared to an unaltered breast. Patients who are thin or who do not have much natural breast tissue, may see or feel  ‘rippling’ under the skin. A new alternative to regular saline implants are Structured Saline Implants, known as the Ideal Implant.

Structured Saline Implants (The IDEAL Implants)

IDEAL Implants, are a structured saline implant which have a unique internal structure that creates a more natural look and feel in comparison to regular saline implants. The structure inside the implant controls the movement of the saline, which eliminates the ‘water balloon’ and ‘rippling’ effects that saline implants can have. Structured implants are a great alternative to saline implants, and Gulf Coast Plastic Surgery is the only doctor in the area that offers them.

Saline and silicone breast implants pose similar surgical risks. With any breast augmentation, there is a risk of scar tissue that can distort the shape of the breast implant, called 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 in the two implant types are pretty 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.  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 appearance. In some cases, a ruptured silicone implant will cause a change in shape or size, and your surgeon will recommend removing and replacing the implant.  Because a rupture in a silicone implant is hard to detect, the FDA recommends patients get an MRI every three years to make sure the out shell of the implant is still intact.

When it comes to breast augmentation, it isn’t one size fits all. Gulf Coast Plastic Surgery offers Vectra 3D Imaging which 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 interested in getting a breast augmentation, schedule a consultation with one of the award-winning, board-certified plastic surgeons, Dr. Peter Butler, Dr. Jocelyn Leveque, and Dr. Nathan Patterson.

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