Silicone vs. Saline- Is One "Better" Than The Other?
When patients come in for a breast augmentation consultation, they frequently ask Dr. Varkony which implants are “better?"
Many have questions and concerns about implants rupturing, leaking or needing to be replaced in the future. In some cases, patients will sometimes quote information from the Internet that is inaccurate or simply untrue.
In this posting, I will explore and explain the pros and cons of saline vs. silicone implants.
Here, at The Plastic Surgery Center, the majority of women opt for silicone implants, although some women still prefer to have saline ones.
Many women still remember hearing about the controversy surrounding silicone breast implants. They were removed from the market in the early '90's for lack of sufficient data, not because they were deemed unsafe.
Unfortunately, much of what was written about silicone breast implants in the media back then was sensational and inaccurate, and this information created panic in many patients who had silicone implants. After years of study by the Food and Drug Administration (Dr. Varkony was one of the investigators), the overwhelming evidence showed that there were no known health hazards caused by silicone breast implants.
The new generation of silicone implants are known as "cohesive gel" implants or "gummy bear" implants, meaning that the silicone gel in them tends to stay together, even in the event of rupture (for example, if a woman was in a car accident and was not wearing a seat belt and hit the dashboard). If a silicone implant is ruptured or leaking, the breast can develop some hardening due to inflammation around the implant or can develop a distorted shape.
This affects the cosmetic appearance of the breast but is not dangerous. Should this happen, the implant should be removed and replaced with a new silicone implant.
A saline (or saltwater) implant that leaks or ruptures generally deflates. The saltwater is somewhat similar to tears in composition, and is absorbed by the body in the same way that drinking a glass of water is absorbed. Any excess water is eliminated as urine. The implant should be replaced to restore symmetry with the other breast, but this is not essential. An elderly woman may elect not to replace the implant, for example.
One can think of saline vs. silicone as a plastic bag filled with water as compared to one filled with honey. The one filled with honey feels more natural, and in the case of small- breasted women, looks more natural as well; there is less natural breast tissue "hiding" the implant.
On the patient side, much of the feedback we get is that silicone implants "just look and feel more natural."
One benefit of saline implants is that, because they are filled during surgery, their size is adjustable and some surgeons feel they can create more symmetry using them in women who have size discrepancies between their breasts. This can also be accomplished with silicone implants, but different size implants must be used because they come pre-filled.
From a cost perspective, saline implants are a little less expensive than silicone implants. Both implants have a silicone "shell."
Ultimately it comes down to personal choice and what is “better” for you," although the vast majority of women today choose silicone gel breast implants over saline ones.
Whatever choice of implant you make we encourage you to do monthly breast exams, after your period each month and continue to do so after your surgery.
Conducting a breast self-exam will be the topic in a future blog post… stay tuned!