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Types of Breast Implants

After much consideration and research, you've decided that you want to get breast implants. However, the decision-making process is still far from over! Before taking any further steps towards breast augmentation surgery, it's important to evaluate the different types of breast implants and ascertain which one will be the best choice for you.

You may not know it now, but a specific implant type may be more flattering on your frame than another—and yet a different implant type could heighten your risk of complications, or increase your odds of needing future implant revision surgery. Additionally, the right type of breast implant will be able to help you achieve precisely the look, feel, shape and texture that you're after. For these reasons and more, it's important to take your time and choose the type of breast implant that's best suited for you.

You're probably somewhat familiar with silicone and saline implants; the two main implant types chosen by patients today. But even within these two implant categories, there are newer material variations, and surgical innovations, that have been recently implemented—much to the benefit and good fortune of modern breast surgery patients throughout the country! In this section, we'll give you some basic information about each breast implant type, to help you make smarter, more informed implant choices!

Silicone Breast Implants

The first successful implant material to be invented, silicone has garnered raves, renown, and in the past, a regrettable reputation and banned status in the U.S. However, after being redeemed in more recent studies, silicone implants earned their FDA approval in 2006 and are back to being a top choice for breast augmentation patients. Silicone is a man-made, rubber-like polymer that has many uses, but it's become almost synonymous with breast implants. Compared to other choices, silicone breast implants are favored for their:

  • Firm, natural feel
  • Tendency not to collapse or ripple
  • Ability to maintain their shape for a long time

Saline Breast Implants

If silicone doesn't seem like the best breast solution for you, saline could be the right choice. Saline implants are a newer, naturally occurring implant material that gained many supporters during the silicone ban of the 90s. Although saline breast implants use a silicone shell, they are filled with a natural, saltwater solution—this saline filler poses no serious health threats if a leak occurs. The fluid will be harmlessly reabsorbed into the system. Many patients choose saline because:

  • Saline poses minor health threats
  • Saline implants require smaller incisions, which equal smaller scars
  • Saline implants traditionally cost less than silicone implants
  • Saline implants have the ability to be enlarged or downsized

More About Silicone Implants

Silicone gel is arguably more similar to natural breast tissue than saline is in terms of appearance and texture—the catch? Silicone isn't considered safer. Although today's silicone implants boast more durable shells and are blessedly sans the original polyurethane coating, they can still pose serious health risks if a rupture or leak introduces silicone into the body.

Health complications that have been tied to silicone leaks include pain, infections, Fibromyalgia, and the destruction of healthy breast tissue; but conclusive studies making a causative link between these issues and silicone are still questionable. The longer a leak goes undetected by both patient and doctor, the greater the chances that medical complications will result. Unfortunately, because of silicone gel's solid structure, a leak or a "silent rupture" may not be detected for some time.

Other findings suggest that silicone breast implants cause a higher incidence of capsular contracture, or the development of hardened scar tissue around the implant. However, if a patient has an implant leak, this scar tissue may corral the silicone and temporarily prevent it from leaking further into the system.

In terms of silicone implant costs, they tend to be considerably more expensive than saline implants. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), the national average cost of silicone implants is $3,813. This base cost doesn't include possible revision work or other included surgical fees.

As evidenced by patients who've had silicone implants for many years, silicone gel also keeps its form and resists natural sagging for a longer period of time than saline will. Just like with natural breasts, gravity and aging start to take their toll on implants over time.

More About Saline Implants

Saline breast implants can differ quite a bit from silicone when it comes to their look and feel. For one thing, the implants' saline filler is less dense than silicone gel, which gives the implant a more wobbly, movable composition. Because their structure is less firm, saline implants can feel less natural than silicone.

There's no question that saline implants are the safest choice. As mentioned earlier, saline will be naturally reabsorbed into the body if a leak occurs—it won't create any health problems in the process either. A leaking or ruptured saline breast implant is also quickly detected, whereas leaking silicone implants may not be noticed for months! Even though leaked saline isn't dangerous, it's best to catch problems with an implant, any implant, as soon as possible. When a saline implant ruptures or starts to leak, the implant deflates in a rather obvious fashion due to saline's more liquid composition. This makes the problem visibly, and physically, noticeable and easier to fix.

Side effects of breast implants, like capsular contracture, will still occur for patients with saline implants. However, on average, capsular contracture is less severe with saline implants than with silicone implants. The body often treats all types of implants as foreign objects, and builds scar tissue around them as a protective measure.

The cost of saline implants is another benefit to choosing this type of implant. Across the board, saline costs less than silicone, with the ASAPS pinning the national average cost of saline implants at $3,544. Again, this amount doesn't reflect included fees or costs for additional work.

A final downside of saline implants is that they are more prone to collapsing, rippling and distorting than silicone implants are. This is primarily because of saline's less solid composition. These issues can occur when the implants' weight is laid flat or in certain positions, or when the implants experience stress or trauma. To reduce these problems, some women choose textured saline implants, which can help prevent movement of the implant within the breast pocket. Very thin patients, or those with little excess skin on the chest wall may experience the greatest problems with visible implant rippling or collapsing.

New Types of Implants

Now that we've covered some basic information about the top two types of breast implants—saline and silicone—we can mention a couple of the latest breast implant creations!

"Gummy Bear" Implants

Cohesive silicone gel implants, more commonly known as gummy bear implants, are the latest craze in silicone. Gummy bear breast implants, named for their "gummy" consistency throughout the implant, are still made of traditional silicone. They are the latest generation of silicone implants, and are reportedly even more cohesive or "form stable" than earlier varieties. All silicone implants are more cohesive than saline implants, since silicone is a denser substance, but gummy bear implants are the most solid implant type to date.

Of course there are pros and cons for gummy bear implant patients. Benefits include the implants' reduction of potential gel bleed if they rupture, and a better ability to hold its shape long-term. Disadvantages include the gummy bear implants' tendency to range on the too-firm side, which may be uncomfortable or undesirable for some patients. The increased firmness of gummy bear breast implants also makes it more difficult to undergo mammogram tests, or to detect a leak or rupture.

IDEAL Implants

On the saline side of things, a recent innovation called IDEAL Implants has lots of potential to even the score against silicone. Compared to earlier saline implants, IDEAL breast implants are allegedly made entirely of saline, but they manage to imitate the firmer, more realistic consistency of silicone. IDEAL implants use an outer implant shell that's comprised of several interlocking saline shells. This groundbreaking design reportedly achieves far greater stability for saline implants than was achieved with earlier models. The IDEAL implant is still filled with saline solution in the final step, which means this type of implant is 100% saline—the first of its kind!

IDEAL implants are in the midst of undergoing nationwide FDA clinical trials, which will determine the future of this creative implant concept. According to some physicians and researchers, benefits of IDEAL implants would include the complete elimination of risks associated with silicone, and a vast improvement in the feel and stability of previous saline implants. Potential risks and side effects of IDEAL implants should be similar to those of standard saline implants.

Taking the Next Step

If you'd like more information about the available types of breast implants, or want to schedule a consultation appointment with a breast implant specialist in your area, contact a BreastAugmentationResources representative today! They will help you connect with a board-certified plastic surgeon who offers exactly the type of breast implants you're looking for; and answer more of your questions about breast augmentation in general!



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