When it comes to breast augmentation, patients have options in shape, size, and material. In the United States, both saline and silicone implants are available. Each type of implant has its pros and cons–what’s right for one person may be completely wrong for another. Usually, patients make a decision after consulting with their plastic surgeon about their goals and preferences.
But things can get tricky when the patient is under the age of 22. That’s because the FDA has only approved silicone implants for use in women over the age of 22. Saline implants are approved for patients over the age of 18.
If you’re between the ages of 18 and 21 and you’re considering breast augmentation, you still have some options. Here’s what you need to know about the implant choices available to younger patients.
Saline implants consist of silicone pouches that are filled with a saline, or saltwater, solution. One of the biggest benefits of saline implants is that they are usually filled after they are inserted. Surgeons can customize their final volume more easily than they can with silicone implants.
Filling the implants after placement also means that the surgeon can make a smaller incision, ultimately resulting in a smaller scar.
One of the most significant drawbacks about saline implants is that they tend to feel firmer and less natural when compared to silicone implants. Saline implants also offer fewer options when it comes to shape, so the breasts tend to look very round. This can make them look more artificial than saline implants.
In patients who are on the thinner side, there’s also a chance that saline implants be visible through the breast. The shape and size of the implants can sometimes cause the skin to ripple or wrinkle around the edges of the implant.
Silicone Implants “Off-Label”
Although technically speaking, silicone implants are only approved for women over the age of 22, it’s not illegal for a surgeon to place them in a younger patient. This is known as off-label use, and it has a long history. Botox, for instance, was first used for problems involving the eye muscles. As a wrinkle treatment, it was used off-label for several years until it was approved by the FDA in 2002.
Many younger patients are worried about getting silicone implants early because they’re not technically approved. Why has the FDA settled on the age of 22 for silicone implants for breast augmentation? Probably because very little research exists on the safety of silicone implants in younger women. It’s worth noting that the FDA has given silicone implants the stamp of approval for use in women of all ages for breast reconstruction. This suggests that there isn’t a specific medical reason for limiting the use of the implants for augmentation to women over age 22.
Your surgeon can walk you through the pros and cons of getting silicone implants at the age of 18, 19, 20 or 21. There are a lot of factors that go into which type of implant is appropriate for each patient.
Wait for Breast Augmentation
A third option for women under age 22 is to simply hold off on breast augmentation. That seems to be the option many women choose to take, according to numbers from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. In 2017, surgeons performed 8,000 breast augmentation procedures on patients under the age of 19. That number jumped to more than 80,000 procedures in people between the ages of 20 and 29.
If you know that you don’t want saline implants and aren’t comfortable going against the FDA’s recommendations, waiting until you’re 22 or older might be the best choice for you. You’ll have many years to enjoy your new look.
Dr. Paul Vitenas is a board-certified plastic surgeon with nearly 30 years of experience. He specializes in breast procedures, including breast augmentation, at his Houston, Texas practice. If you’re under 22 and want to learn more about your breast augmentation options, call 281-484-0088 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Vitenas today.