For women looking to enhance the size, shape and feel of their breasts, the common option is breast augmentation. Breast augmentation involves surgically inserting an implant underneath the breast to enhance its size and appearance. Currently, there are two choices out there for women trying to enhance the size of their bust—silicone breast implants and saline breast implants. Both offer similar results, but there are some distinct differences you must be aware of before deciding between saline or silicone breast implants.
What are Silicone Breast Implants?
Silicone breast implants consist of a soft outer shell that is filled with silicone gel. Silicone gel is a semisolid substance. It is difficult to explain exactly how it feels, but it feels very much like the soft, squishy yet firm feel of natural breast tissue. Silicone breast implants come in many different shapes and sizes, and have the ability to be specifically molded and tailor made for your body, depending on what and your plastic surgeon decide will look best.
Advantages of Silicone Breast Implants
The main advantage of silicone breast implants over saline is that silicone feels more like real breast tissue. Silicone gel is a very unique substance in that it is semisolid, kind of like toothpaste, but it feels different. It has the ability to be somewhat squishy and change shape, but at the same time, it is also rather firm and go back to its original shape. This makes it the ideal substance to mimic the feeling of real breast tissue. Most women want to be as natural looking and feeling as possible, so this is why silicone breast implants are a more popular choice over their saline counter-parts. Saline implants are just filled with salt water, and feel somewhat like water balloon—somewhat close to real breast tissue, but not as similar as a silicone implant.
Another advantage of silicone implants over saline is that they are less likely to ripple. To get an picture in your mind of what this “saline implant ripple effect” looks like, imagine if you had a bowl of hot soup in front you and blew on it, creating ripples in the water. Since saline implants are just salt water, they behave the same way that water in your soup bowl would. This means when you move around, the implant may tend to ripple. The ripple effect of saline implants is most noticeable on women who had very little breast tissue to begin with. With silicone, however, the risk of having the ripple effect is greatly reduced, especially if the implant is placed beneath the muscle tissue, or you already have a decent amount of natural breast tissue to start with.
Disadvantages of Silicone Breast Implants
There are a few disadvantages of silicone implants. The first is that they are more expensive (about $1,000 more), because the silicone gel is more expensive than saline. They can also be somewhat more difficult to work with. If your doctor measures incorrectly and one implant is bigger than the other, a whole new implant will be needed, where as with saline, he can simply drain out or add more fluid as needed. Also, for this reason, slightly bigger incisions must be made to accommodate silicone implants, which must be inserted at their pre-filled size, while saline implants can be inserted at a smaller, deflated size and then filled once inserted.
However, the biggest disadvantage with silicone breast implants is that if it ruptures, it may not be immediately noticeable. Breast implants are extremely resilient but there is always the risk that they might rupture. If they do, the fluid will drain out extremely slowly, and it can take a very long time before you notice. There is absolutely no evidence that the silicone gel causes any long term bodily harm such as breast cancer or any other illnesses, but it might eventually cause breast pain and change the size and shape of the breast. If the implant ruptures, you will need to go in to have it replaced or taken out immediately. With saline implants, on the other hand, the rupture is no cause for concern. They are composed of salt water, which is what 70% of your body is made of anyway. Plus, the rupture with saline implants will be noticeable immediately as all the water will drain out the implant very quickly.
Silicone Breast Implants and the FDA
In 1992, a group of women filed lawsuits, claiming to have complications from their silicone filled breast implants. For about the next 15 years, silicone breast implants were taken off the market while the FDA performed extensive research. After much investigation, the FDA ultimately concluded that silicone implants were not in any way responsible for the medical complications experienced by the women who filed the original lawsuits. In 2006, silicone breast implants were re-approved by the FDA. The FDA does, however, recommend that all breast implants, whether saline or silicone, be replaced every 5 years, and that women who have them undergo special types of mammograms.
Silicone Breast Implant Cost
Silicone breast implants cost about $6,600 on average with all costs included (surgeons fee, anesthesia, garments, medications, etc.). This is about $1,000 more than saline implants. However, the cost shouldn’t be a big determining factor. If you think you would be better off with silicone, do not opt for saline to save a few bucks. If you truly want saline for other reasons than price then by all means, go for it, but do not let the extra $1,000 deter you if you desire silicone. You only have one body, treat it well.
The Ultimate Decision
Silicone is the more popular choice because it feels more like real breast tissue and it doesn’t have nearly as high a risk for the ripple effect that saline implants have. The only disadvantages are that they are more costly and slightly harder to work with. The final decision between saline or silicone breast implants will come down to discussing the pros and cons with your doctor.