Understanding Breast Implant Types
You probably already know of the two main breast implant types: silicone breast implants, and saline breast implants. But did you know that breast implants also come in different shapes, sizes and textures? You have many more options than you may realize.
The breast implant type you choose will, in part, determine the breast implant placement your surgeon uses. In addition, your choice influences the breast implant risks and complications to which you may be vulnerable. Educating yourself about these options before you have breast augmentation will allow you to make better choices for yourself, achieve the aesthetic results you're looking for, and feel better about the procedure—and yourself.
Silicone Breast Implants
At one time, silicone implants had a poor reputation due to health and safety concerns. That's no longer the case. Silicone is now known as a safe, FDA-approved breast implant type.
This is due in large part to silicone breast implants now being made with a cohesive silicone gel. Old silicone breast implants contained liquid silicone. This meant that if the implant ruptured or tore, the silicone could leak into the body, causing numerous health problems.
As its name suggests, cohesive gel stays together, so even if the implant ruptures, the gel stays right where it is. If you were to cut a silicone breast implant in half, what you'd see inside would look similar to the interior of a gummy bear. For this reason, they've been nicknamed "gummy bear implants."
Saline Breast Implants
Exactly as their name suggests, saline breast implants are filled with salt water. Not just any salt water, though. It's completely sterile, and kept from exposure to the environment to prevent contamination. The saline is contained within a silicone shell, which secures the liquid, and helps give the breasts a more natural feel.
Some saline implants are pre-filled by the manufacturer. However, others come empty, and are filled with saline by the surgeon during breast augmentation surgery. This offers a benefit to you—the incision required to place the empty implant is much smaller than one required to place a full one. This means shorter surgery, less pain, faster recovery, and minimized scarring.
In addition, if a saline implant ruptures or tears, the liquid will simply be absorbed and expelled by your body. Like their counterparts, saline breast implants are also FDA-approved.
Breast Implant Shells
Both silicone breast implants and saline breast implants come in a thick, silicone-based shell—also known as an envelope or lumen—that is designed to be as durable as possible. Breast implant shells are made of a highly malleable, stable silicone elastomer, and usually have multiple layers to help protect the implant and prevent ruptures or tears.
Although this outer shell is strong, it's still imperative that you inform the technician that you've had breast augmentation before you undergo a mammogram so they can take appropriate precautions.
Breast implant shells have surfaces that are either smooth or textured.
Smooth Breast Implants
Because they have a thinner shell, smooth breast implants feel softer, and are able to move a bit more freely within the pocket constructed to hold them within the breast.
Smooth breast implants also tend to last longer, and are usually less likely to cause breast rippling.
Textured Breast Implants
Although they were designed to reduce the risk of capsular contracture, there is no conclusive evidence that says textured breast implants are effective in this function.
However, one advantage they have is their texture inhibits movement in the breast pocket, making breast implant displacement less likely.
Breast Implant Shape
When you visit us for your consultation, we encourage you to bring photos of the size and shape of breasts you desire. It's important to remember that every body is different, and your breasts won't look exactly like the images you choose. However, the photos will help give your surgeon an idea of what you're looking for, what your expectations are, and which breast implant shape to use.
The two basic breast implant shapes are round and teardrop.
Round Implant Shape
Round breast implants are ideal for women who want more fullness in the upper part of the breast, and more cleavage. Round implants also will not look out of place if they happen to rotate, as they maintain the same shape at any angle.
Teardrop Implant Shape
Teardrop implants (sometimes referred to as contoured breast implants) slope downward like the shape of a natural breast. These implants are typically used for women with smaller frames who still want to increase volume, or those who just want a more natural look.
Breast Implant Size
The volume of an implant is what determines its size. This volume is measured in cubic centimeters, or ccs. Every 150 to 200 ccs of implant volume accounts for approximately one to one-and-a-half bra cup sizes.
You may already have an idea of the breast implant size you want. However, it's important to carefully consider several factors, and your surgeon’s recommendations.
Factors such as your lifestyle, anatomy and career will influence how to choose breast implant size.
Also, your anatomy will help to determine what breast implant size will look most natural on you, and will be in balance with the rest of your figure. Your surgeon will perform all the necessary tests and measurements to determine what breast implant size is right for you, and will help you achieve your goals.
Can I get a mammogram with breast implants?Yes. But you should be aware of a couple of risks.
First, it's possible that breast implants may interfere with the detection of breast cancer during a mammogram as implants make scans more difficult to take and read.
Second, the pressure placed on the breasts during a mammogram may also put you at risk of breast implant rupture. With this in mind, be sure you always tell your mammogram technician that you have had breast augmentation before receiving a mammogram.
How much does a breast implant weigh?The weight of your breast implants will depend on their size and substance. For example, two 300cc silicone breast implants weigh approximately 1.4 pounds. By comparison, two 300cc saline breast implants weigh 1.27 pounds.
Can I develop an allergy to my silicone breast implants?While not impossible, silicone allergies do occur, although they're rare. You would likely already be aware of such an allergy as we are exposed to silicone regularly in our daily lives (hand lotions, polishes, waxes, etc.).