Saline vs Silicone Implants for Breast Augmentation

By Carmel Cosmetic and Plastic Surgeons on September 05, 2019

Undergoing breast augmentation is an exciting decision, but you may feel overwhelmed when choosing a type of implant. Both silicone and saline implants can enhance your breasts, creating the size and shape that you desire for a more flattering figure and improved self-confidence.

Silicone-filled implants typically provide more natural-looking results. However, some patients prefer the peace of mind saline implants provide as the implants themselves do not require MRI surveillance and are typically less harmful in the event of a leakage.

Saline vs Silicone Breast Implants

Saline and silicone breast implants both have an outer silicone shell. Where the implants differ is in the material that fills the implant shells and in the resulting feel and look of the implants.

Saline implants are filled with sterile salt water. They are placed empty and then filled once they are in position.  Saline breast implants are available to women age 18 and older for breast augmentation and to women of any age for breast reconstruction.

Silicone implants are pre-filled with silicone gel — a thick, gelatenous fluid. Many believe that silicone breast implants look and feel more "natural".  Silicone breast implants are available to women age 22 and older for breast augmentation and to women of any age for breast reconstruction. The FDA also recommends MRI surveillance 3 years after placement and every 2 years thereafter to evaluate for rupture.

What Risks Do Breast Implants Pose?

Saline and silicone breast implants pose some similar risks, including:

  • Contracted scar tissue that distorts the shape of the breast implant known as capsular contracture
  • Breast pain
  • Infection
  • Changes in nipple and breast sensation, often temporary
  • Implant leakage or rupture

Correction of some of these conditions might require additional surgery and may require removal or replacement of the implants. It should be noted that textured, silicone gel implants, particularly Allergan manufactured textured, silicone gel implants, have been found to increase the risk of implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, BIA-ALCL. For this reason, these implants have been recalled from the market as recommended by the FDA.

What Happens in the Event of a Ruptured Implant?

Ruptured saline implant

If a saline breast implant ruptures, the implant will deflate causing the breast to change in size and shape. Your body will absorb the leaking saline solution without health risks.  You will need to have surgery to remove the ruptured implant. If you want, a new implant can be inserted at the time of removal of the ruptured implant.

Ruptured silicone implant

If a silicone breast implant ruptures, you might not notice it all because teh shape of the breast may not change and the free silicone can remain trapped in the capsule that naturally forms around the implant. This is known as an intracapsular rupture. If the silicone is present outside of the capsule that surrounds the implant it is known as an extracapsular rupture. Evaluation of the integrity of the implants is recommended by the FDA and that is why MRI surveillance is performed.

Leaking silicone gel isn't thought to cause health problems. Still, a ruptured silicone breast implant might eventually cause breast pain or capsular contarcture resulting in changes in the contour or shape of the breast. If this happens, your surgeon will recommend surgical removal of the implant and the capsule surrounding the implant. If you want a new implant, it can usually be inserted at the same time.

If breast augmentation sounds like it may be right for you, we would love to get you started. Contact us to schedule a consultation. Carmel Cosmetic and Plastic Surgeons provides a supportive environment in which you can feel at ease to discuss your goals. Our physicians, Dr. Elizabeth Grasee and Dr. Debra Bergman, will help you decide the best course of action to achieve the desired outcome for breast augmentation. We are committed to guiding you towards a solution that aligns with your personal preferences and maintains your health.

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