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Saline vs. Silicone: Which Breast Implants Are Right For You?

breast implants

Once you’ve decided to have breast augmentation surgery, the next big decision to make is choosing the right type of breast implant. Size is just one factor when picking out the right implants. You also want to look at what the breast implants are made out of it and at how the different materials affect the look and feel of the implants. The two main choices for implants are either silicone or saline. Here are a few things to consider when deciding which one is right for you.

Materials for Breast Implants

Although the materials inside the implants differ, both saline and silicone breast implants feature an outer shell made from silicone.  It’s what’s inside that counts. Saline implants have been around for more than half of a century. The big advantage of them is that they can be filled after they are inserted into the breast. That means the surgeon can make a smaller incision and more precisely dictate the size of the breasts during the surgery.

Silicone implants were taken off of the market in 1992 due to concerns about their safety. After numerous tests, research and development, a new generation of silicone breast implants, approved by the FDA, came on the market in 2006. While silicone implants are pre-filled and usually require a larger incision to place, they also have a more realistic and natural feel than saline implants. They are also less likely to create a rippled effect beneath the breast.

Your Age

If you’re on the younger side, your age might play a role in determining which breast implants are right for you. Saline implants are FDA approved for women over the age of 18 for cosmetic breast augmentation. Silicone implants are approved for women over the age of 22 for cosmetic reasons. Either implant is appropriate for women of any age who are considering implants for breast reconstruction.

Results and Longevity

The materials of the implants determines not only how they look, but also how they feel. Saline implants typically create a firmer breast. The breast is also usually rounder, and some might say that the breasts look more like water balloons after surgery.

In contrast, silicone implants create a softer breast that feels more like natural breast tissue. The shape of the breast isn’t quite as round when silicone implants are used, either. Silicone implants tend to be particularly ideal for thinner patients or for patients who don’t have a lot of natural breast tissue. The edges of saline implants can often be visible in thinner patients, giving the breasts a rippled or bumpy appearance.

The FDA stresses the fact that breast implants are not meant to be lifetime devices, although many silicone implants do come with a lifetime warranty. Still, you can expect your implants to last for many years, whether you choose silicone or saline ones. In some cases, it might be a good idea to have imaging done to check on the state of the implants after about 10 years.

Changes in your breast’s shape or perkiness, or changes in your taste can affect how long your implants last. For example, you might decide that you’d like smaller or larger breasts after having implants for years or you might decide that you no longer want implants at all. Although you can expect your breast implants to have a long shelf life, how long they will last or how long you’ll want them can be tough to predict at the start.

Risks and Ruptures

The risks related to breast implants are similar whether you choose saline or silicone implants. One possible risk is the development of capsular contracture, which forms when scar tissue develops around the implant and squeezes it. The formation of a capsule around the implant is a normal part of the healing process after breast surgery. But, in some patients, the capsule shrinks, distorting the shape of the breast and making the breast firm to the touch. In the  most advanced stages, capsular contracture can be very painful. Typical treatment involves removing the capsule or removing the implants themselves, along with the capsule.

It’s not uncommon for women to be concerned about the risk of their implants rupturing. Fortunately, modern implants don’t rupture all that often, unless some amount of force is put on the breasts themselves. The materials the implant is made out of determines what happens when it ruptures. It’s usually immediately obvious that a saline implant has burst – the saline solution seeps out and is absorbed by the body. The breast naturally deflates.

Since the gel used in silicone implants is so thick and viscous, it’s usually more difficult to tell if a silicone implant has burst. When a silicone implant ruptures, it’s often called a silent rupture since there are few or no signs of it. The good news is that a ruptured silicone implant usually doesn’t present many issues or risks to a woman. Over time, the leaking implant might cause some pain or a change in the shape of the breast, both of which can be corrected by removing it.

Cost of Breast Implants

Saline and silicone implants differ when it comes to price. Usually, silicone implants are more expensive than saline, but not so much so to make them out of reach for many patients. In fact, the cost seems to be of little concern to many patients, as the vast majority pick silicone implants due to their more natural feel and look.

It might seem as though silicone implants have more advantages over saline, particularly for patients concerned about the look and feel of their breasts after surgery. The reality is that each option has its pros and cons and it’s really an individual choice. While many women go for silicone implants, there are still plenty who prefer saline.

At his practice in Houston, Texas, Dr. Paul Vitenas offers patients both saline and silicone implants. A top rated plastic surgeon in Houston and across the U.S., Dr. Vitenas can help you choose the implants for you. Call (281) 484-0088 to schedule a consultation with him today.