According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), there are only two types of breast implants approved for sale in the United States: saline and silicone implants.
After deciding to have breast implants, you might be wondering: what are the differences between saline and silicone implants?
Based on the statistics published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2017 more than 300,000 women underwent breast augmentation surgery in the U.S., a procedure that seeks to increase the size, shape, or fullness of the breast.
Compared to the year 2000, the amount of surgeries has increased by 40%. That doesn’t account the thousands of procedures performed in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, and other medical travel spots.
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Both types of implants have a silicone outer shell. However, there are differences in content, shape, cost, replacement time, rupture detection.
Saline-filled implants are silicone shells filled with sterile salt water.
Silicone gel-filled implants are silicone shells filled with a gel (silicone).
There are two main types of shapes: round and anatomical or teardrop-shaped implant.
Women from the United States commonly use the round implant while in Europe the teardrop shaped implant is more popular.
The top two differences in shapes are:
- Round: tends to provide more fullness to the upper area of the breast and more cleavage.
- Anatomical: teardrop shape that may look more natural though tends to have less fullness in the upper portion of the breast.
Saline implants tend to look firmer and rounder than a silicone implant.
The size of the saline implants is adjusted during surgery by filling it with more or less saline water.
Silicone implants are more customizable and feel like a real breast. (Leif Rogers, 2017).
There is a significant cost difference of about $1,000 U.S. dollars between saline and silicone breast implants.
According to Dr. David Reath, in the United States, the average saline implants cost $4,865.
The amount includes surgical and anesthesia fees, the implants, special post-op bra after and follow-up assistance.
The same features can cost you around 5,865 dollars for silicone implants. Nevertheless, the cost of breast implants varies depending on the location, doctor and type of implant used.
The first thing you need to recognize is that implants are not considered lifetime devices.
Although saline or silicone implants do not have a specific lifespan, the replacement time depends on the patient’s body and lifestyle.
Usually, implants last between 10-20 years. While a few people may keep their original implants for 20 to 30 years, that is not the common experience.
A rupture is a tear or hole in the outer shell of the breast implant. The term rupture applies to all types of breast implants. But, the term deflation refers only to saline-filled implants.
When saline implants rupture, it deflates, and it’s more noticeable to see a change of shape of the implant.
On the other hand, silicone gel is thicker than saline, so if they rupture, the gel may remain in the shell or in the scar tissue that forms around the implant.
The FDA strongly recommends removing both saline-filled and silicone gel-filled breast implants if they have ruptured. MRI continues to be an effective method of detecting silent rupture of silicone gel-filled breast implants.
For these reasons, the FDA recommends that a patient with silicone implants should go for an MRI screening three years after surgery for silent rupture and every two years after that.
Wrinkling and Rippling
These terms are used to describe an unnatural scalloping appearance that can occur on the breast after breast augmentation surgery.
Wrinkling is more likely to occur to saline than silicone implants.
Silicone might be a better choice for post-mastectomy breast reconstruction because it does not cause wrinkling.
Both saline and silicone implants can have either smooth or textured shells.
According to justbreastimplants.com, “smooth implants move freely in the pocket, whereas textured implants do not. Textured implants have a thicker shell and a slightly higher rupture rate due to the imperfections in the shell.
“Smooth implants have thinner shells and tend to last longer when creases or folds do not occur,” mentions the source.
Smooth implants are currently the most popular implant used today.
Silicone Implants Fact:
87% of total 2017 breast implants were silicone; 13% were saline (ASPS)
FDA NOTE: The silicone used for breast implants is different than injectable silicone. Injectable silicone is not FDA-approved for body contouring.