Silicone Breast Implant Safety
When I began my practice in 1996 silicone gel implants were still off the market in the United States. They had been removed from the market by the FDA in 1992 over concerns that they may be linked to autoimmune disorders. Large groups of women with and without silicone implants were studied. In each group, some women did develop these disorders, but the numbers were the same with or without implants. Because a link could not be established implants were allowed back on the market. All new implants on the market today feature a stronger outer shell and a cohesive silicone.
What Are the Advantages of Silicone Gel Breast Implants?
Silicone gel breast implants are softer and considered to create a much more realistic look than can be achieved with saline implants. Think of a saline implant like a glorified water baloon. Silicone implants feel softer and more natural. It is often more difficult to discern silicone gel breast implants from actual breast tissue. Silicone gel breast implants also move with the body in a more natural way and take on a more natural-looking shape.
In addition, silicone gel breast implants are far less likely to show the effects of rippling, which is more common with saline implants. This is especially important to very thin women who have only a small amount of breast tissue to cover the implant.
Contact our DC-area offices for more information about the advantages of silicone gel breast implants.
Who Can Benefit from Silicone Gel Breast Implants?
If a woman consults with me for augmentation and has a good amount of natural breast tissue then she will hide or camouflage either a saline or silicone implant well, but the silicone will still feel much more natural.
In a woman with very little natural tissue, a silicone will tend to give a far more natural looking result. All silicone implants, teardrop or not, tend to take on a more sloped and natural shape. Silicone is much softer as well.
Who Can Benefit from Saline Breast Implants?
- Women who are trying to avoid a breast lift. Saline implants, which have more fullness in the upper portion tend to lift up more skin. In some cases, this can avoid or minimize the need for a lift.
- Women who like the look of upper pole fullness. Saline gives more of a “push up bra” look and while technically less natural, it is appealing to some of my patients.
- Women with different-sized breasts. Silicone implants are sealed shut, but saline implants are filled during surgery. For cases of breast asymmetry, a saline implant is more flexible in adjusting volume.
- Women who are concerned about the scar. Saline implants can be inserted while deflated so in some cases can be placed through smaller incisions. I personally think this is less of a concern now that I place silicone implants through a funnel. The funnel allows silicone implants to be placed through much smaller incisions.
- Women who are still scared. Despite the medical evidence, some women are still concerned about the use of silicone. Saline is still a good option and continued to be a good option for women even when silicone was off the market.
Are Silicone Gel Breast Implants Safe?
When the FDA halted the use of silicone gel breast implants in 1992, it was not due to any proven dangers associated with them. It was simply due to a lack of information about their safety. Although there were some questions as to whether a leaking implant could pose significant health threats, after extensive clinical testing, the FDA, breast implant manufacturers, and other researchers have found no link between medical problems and silicone gel breast implants.
A comprehensive study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) conducted in 1999 concluded:
- Silicone gel breast implants do not cause breast cancer or reoccurrence of breast cancer.
- There is no evidence that silicone gel breast implants contribute to an increase in systemic diseases.
- It is safe to breastfeed with silicone gel breast implants.
I personally feel that silicone is a safe option particularly with appropriate care and follow-up. Implants are not forever and I believe it is better to change out a silicone implant before we find a leak, so in my opinion, maintenance is part of the deal. Nothing is a natural as nothing and for you the patient the benefit I hope will be outweighed by the future risk. The key is to be, and to stay, informed about any device that will live inside your body. My consultations are geared towards teaching. I feel that by understanding the details, good or bad patients are more likely to be gratified as they approach implant surgery.