Silicone Breast Implants

What are silicone breast implants?

By Sarah Leavitt, Medical Research EditorLast modified: November 23, 2011

Silicone Breast Implants

Silicone breast implants are platinum shelled implants pre-filled with silicone gel. Silicone breast implants have been used on millions of women receiving breast augmentation or reconstructive surgery and remain a popular form of breast implants today. In fact, most women prefer silicone implants.

Silicone breast implants are available for women of all ages seeking breast reconstruction. The FDA, however, restricts women under the age of twenty-two from receiving silicone breast implants for the purpose of breast augmentation. Women under the age of twenty-two must be at least eighteen years old and may only receive saline breast implants.

Silicone breast implants came about in the 1960s by a plastic surgeon company based in Texas. Their use has been more controversial than saline breast implants, but it is now an FDA-approved breast implant.

Silicone Breast Implants and the FDA

In 1992, the FDA restricted the use of silicone implants for cosmetic surgery, claiming it didn’t have enough evidence supporting the safety of their use. There was also worry about a correlation between silicone implants and connective tissue diseases. Doctors and scientists continued to study the safety of silicone implants and routinely found no correlation between silicone breast implants and increased risk of disease. As a result, the FDA lifted its restrictions on silicone-filled breast implants on November 17, 2006, allowing women more options for breast augmentation. Although the FDA approved silicone breast implants for cosmetic surgery, it stressed the risks involved in its approval, and recommends that women have routine MRI exams to check for leakage or rupture.

Disadvantages of Silicone Breast Implants

Silicone breast implants carry the risk of silent rupture. A silent rupture occurs when a silicone implant breaks and it is not readily apparent from the surface, allowing the silicone to leak into your body. Some symptoms may eventually arise from a silent rupture such a change in breast size, lumps around the breast or armpit, pain, swelling, or breast hardening. As a result, silicone breast implants require routine MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) check-ups in order to detect silent ruptures. Women receiving silicone breast implants must have MRI check-ups for three years following their breast augmentation surgery and then every two years afterwards.

Bear in mind that MRI screening can add significantly to the cost of breast augmentation. In addition, silicone breast implants are generally more expensive than their saline counterparts.

The size of silicone breast implants cannot be altered once they are in place because silicone implants are always pre-filled, unlike saline breast implants. Changing the size of your silicone-filled breast implant requires breast augmentation revision.

Advantages of Silicone Breast Implants

Silicone breast implants are smoother and softer than saline-filled implants. Most women prefer the more natural looking aspect of silicone implants as well as the more natural feel. For these reasons, women with less breast tissue as well as breast cancer survivors are often recommended to receive silicone breast implants.

Silicone breast implants are held together by a platinum shell. This shell has been tested extensively, bringing doctors to conclude that it poses little to no health risks in the body.  

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