When it comes to breast implants, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Breast implants consist of a silicone outer shell that is either filled with silicone gel or a sterile saltwater solution (AKA saline).
While silicone breast implants tend to get the most attention for their natural look and feel, saline implants have their place, too. For some women, saline might be a better option overall than silicone. Here’s what you need to know about saline breast implants.
What’s the History of Saline Breast Implants?
Like silicone implants, the first saline implants appeared on the market in the mid-1960s. Those first implants had a few issues—mainly that they would rupture easily, causing the breasts to “deflate.” Women who had ruptured saline implants claimed to be able to hear a “sloshing” sound when the implants leaked.
Luckily, advances in technology soon made saline implants more durable. Later versions featured a double shell, with a silicone-encased pocket of saline. The double layering made leaks and ruptures much less likely.
From 1992 to 2006, a woman who wanted a breast augmentation in the US had just one option: saline implants. During that time, silicone implants were banned for cosmetic use over safety concerns (the FDA still approved them for use in reconstructive breast surgeries).
Even after the FDA cleared silicone breast implants for cosmetic purposes in 2006, saline implants didn’t disappear from the market. They are still around today.
Who Can Get Saline Breast Implants?
Saline breast implants are FDA-approved for cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. For cosmetic use, they are approved for women over the age of 18. For reconstructive surgery, they are approved for women of all ages. Silicone implants are FDA-approved for cosmetic reasons for women over the age of 22.
What Are the Benefits of Saline Breast Implants?
Perhaps the most notable benefit of saline breast implants is that the implants are filled after they are placed in the breast pocket. Filling after placement offers several advantages. For one thing, the surgeon can make a smaller incision, meaning that any resulting scars will be smaller.
For another thing, filling the implants after placing them means that a woman seeking breast augmentation can get a more precise and custom look. Some saline implants have a special port that allows them to be adjusted after the surgery.
Another benefit of saline implants is that they tend to cost less than silicone implants, making them the more affordable option.
If a saline implant does rupture inside the body, it’s usually a lot easier to notice than the rupture of a silicone implant. The saline will leak out of the implant, causing the breast to “deflate” and the body will absorb the saline. Meanwhile, if a silicone implant ruptures, the only way to detect the issue is with imaging.
What Are the Drawbacks of Saline Breast Implants?
Saline implants might be the right option for some women, but not for all breast augmentation patients. They do have some notable drawbacks. One disadvantage is that the edges of the implant can occasionally become visible beneath the skin. If a woman has thin skin, it’s more likely for wrinkles or ripples of the implant shell to be visible. Since silicone implants tend to be smooth, they don’t cause rippling.
Another potential issue with saline breast implants is the way they feel. Silicone implants tend to feel soft and more natural. Saline implants can be firm and hard to the touch. They also create a less natural-looking, rounder shape to the breasts.
Finally, there is a higher risk of capsular contracture with saline implants as compared to silicone. Capsular contraction occurs when scar tissue forms around the implant and “squeezes” it. The condition can be very uncomfortable and usually requires that the implant be removed or replaced.
Are Saline Implants Right for You?
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing between saline and silicone implants. If you’re under the age of 22 and you’re seeking breast augmentation for cosmetic reasons right away, your decision is pretty much made for you.
But if you’re over age 22, you have options. It’s worth looking closely at the pros and cons of saline implants and comparing them to the pros and cons of silicone implants before making your choice. You can also discuss your options with a board-certified plastic surgeon and get their expert opinion and advice on the best implants for you.
Dr. Paul Vitenas is a board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in breast surgeries in the Houston area. To learn more about your implant options, call 281-484-0088 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Vitenas today.