Most of our breast augmentation patients at our Austin, TX and Round Rock, TX plastic surgery practice want to know what the safest implants are. We reassure them that both silicone and saline implants are very safe when the surgery is performed by board-certified specialists.
Breast implants are not designed as lifetime devices, but in most cases there are few or no complications. Improvements are continually being made to the devices, and the FDA approved 2 new types of silicone gel-filled implants earlier this year. Research shows there are no significant safety differences between saline-filled and silicone gel-filled implants. Each type has a unique history:
Introduced in the 1960s, silicone gel-filled implants became available again in 2006 after being banned in 1992 by the FDA except for use in breast reconstruction surgeries. The FDA concluded that silicone implants were safe after reviewing research and not finding any link between the implants and disease.
Gummy bear implants are a specific class of silicone implants. They contain a cohesive silicone gel that maintains its shape even if a rupture occurs, with a similar consistency to gummy bear candies. The first style was approved by the FDA in 2012, and there are now various cohesive gel implants available.
Saline implants were also introduced in the 1960s. They have a silicone shell that can be pre-filled with saline before the implants are inserted or filled during the breast augmentation operation. The rate of revision surgery is lower with saline than silicone implants, although they are more prone to downward displacement (bottoming out) because they are heavier.
The most common complication for either type of implant is capsular contracture, when scar tissue attaches to the implant and causes it to harden. Ruptures can occur with either saline or silicone implants, but is difficult to notice with silicone implants. That’s why women with silicone implants are advised to get regular MRI exams.
Despite the risks, one thing to remember is it’s clear that whether the 300,000 women who get breast implants each year choose silicone or saline, the vast majority of them are satisfied.