For patients considering and preparing for breast augmentation, size is only one component of the decision-making process. Choosing the material for your breast implants will make a significant difference in how they look and feel. You will have to weight the benefits and disadvantages of different implant types.
At the Whole Beauty® Institute, we offer both silicone gel and saline breast implants, the most widely-used materials for breast augmentation.
Each implant type offers specific characteristics so that it is possible to meet the needs of patients with a wide range of goals. Learn more about the benefits of each type of implant below.
Silicone Gel Breast Implants
Silicone gel breast implants are made of a silicone shell and filled with a gel made of the same material. A wide range of medical devices are made with a silicone component because the material structure is a very simple polymer that can be formed into a solid, gel, or liquid substance.
Some benefits of choosing silicone gel implants over saline implants include:
1) Natural Look and Feel
The main reason silicone gel implants are chosen over saline implants is that the material makes breasts look and feel natural. Especially in larger sizes, saline implants tend to impart an unnatural look to the breast and they may be more visible than silicone gel implants.
Silicone gel implants generally feel more natural that saline implants, which is an important advantage. One of the main reasons that some patients with saline-filled breast implants switch to silicone gel implants is that they are unhappy with the feel of the breasts.
If you are looking for implants that give you an augmentation without the unnatural implant look and feel, silicone gel might be the right material for you.
2) Less Likely to Ripple
Saline implants tend to ripple when placed under the breast. This can be felt and may be seen, especially when the person bends forward. Some surgeons try to compensate for this by over-filling the implants, but this tends to give the breast a thrusted, unnatural look. In general, silicone gel implants are less likely to ripple.
3) Possibly More Durable
The interaction between the silicone gel inside an implant and its shell imparts less wear and tear on the device than when an implant is filled with saline. This may make gel implants more durable. It’s hard to find a perfect scientific study on this topic, however, Dr. Cook has performed thousands of breast augmentations, and in his opinion, gel implants are more durable based on his own patients’ experience.
4) Filled by the Manufacturer
Silicone gel implants are filled and sealed at the facility where they are manufactured, while saline implants are filled by your surgeon in the operating room. The valve mechanism that allows for the filling of saline implants may be a source of leakage. There is also the theoretical concern that if improper technique is used when filling a saline implant, bacteria could be introduced into the implant. If you are considering breast implants, it is important you find a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery to assure that proper technique will be used.
Silicone gel implants, although the more natural option in terms of look and feel, do come with disadvantages. If a gel implant develops a weakness in its shell, it may be hard for you to notice. A leak in a saline implant, on the other hand, is easy to detect, because the breast will lose volume. With gel implant, it is wise to follow up with your plastic surgeon every 5 to 10 years.
Silicone gel implants have been evaluated in very large clinical studies and there is no known connection with any rheumatologic condition. Despite this, if you look on the internet you will find individuals who claim that their implants have caused health problems. If you are a person who is easily frightened by material on the internet, this could give saline implants an advantage.
Saline Breast Implants
The shells of saline implants are made with the solid form of the silicone polymer, just like the shells of silicone gel implants. They are filled with a saline (salt water) solution.
There are benefits to choosing saline implants:
1) Peace of Mind
A saline implant that leaks simply delivers sterile salt water to your body. This will impose an inconvenience, since the implant will need to be removed and replaced, but you will not need to concern yourself with any theoretical health risks.
There is never any uncertainty if a rupture has occurred with a saline implant since the breast will lose significant volume over a short period of time. If a gel implant develops a rupture of the shell, the changes in your breasts may be more subtle. Sometimes it is necessary to do an MRI study to tell if a rupture has occurred.
2) Adjustable Size
Saline implants can be slightly more custom-fit that silicone gel implants since your surgeon will fill them after placing them in the space he or she has created beneath the breast and the pec muscle. The implants contain valves into which a fill tube is placed, so there is a range of fill volumes for a saline implant, as opposed to a fixed volume for gel implants. This allows for subtle adjustments that may help to balance the two breasts in cases of asymmetry. It is wise to remember that no surgeon can create perfect symmetry.
3) Smaller Incisions
The surgical incision for placing saline implants is shorter that what is required for a silicone gel implant of equivalent size. This is due to the ability of the surgeon to fill a saline implant after it has been placed in the pocket under the breast and pec muscle. The result is a shorter surgical scar.
The major disadvantage to saline implants is that in general they look and feel less natural than silicone gel implants. This is particularly true when the volume of the implant is greater than the volume of natural breast tissue. There are technical factors that can allow for a skilled surgeon to maximize the quality of the result with both silicone gel and saline implants, and this will be an important part of your consultation.
Which Breast Implant Is Right for You?
You can learn more about the different types of breast implants by scheduling a consultation with Dr. John Q. Cook at the Whole Beauty® Institute with locations in downtown Chicago and Winnetka in the North Shore.
With over 20 years of experience with in breast augmentation surgery, Dr. Cook can help you make an informed decision about which type of breast implant is right for your body based upon your surgical goals. Contact us today or call 312-751-2112.