Breast Augmentation – Saline Breast Implants
History of Saline breast implants
Saline-filled breast implants were introduced by a French company in 1964. Over the years new companies developed additional implants. In 1992 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had some safety concerns about silicone implants and stopped allowing their use in cosmetic breast surgery until studies were completed. The ruling allowed saline implants to continue to be used for cosmetic and reconstructive breast surgery. The popularity of breast augmentation soared in the 1990’s, even though silicone implants were not widely available. Today three companies (Natrelle, Mentor, Ideal) make saline implants that are FDA-approved for use in the United States.
shapes and sizes of saline implants
Almost all of the saline breast implants used today are round. “Teardrop” saline breast implants are available but not commonly chosen for breast augmentation.
Saline implants come in a wide variety of sizes. The largest saline breast implant available in the U.S. is 960 cc’s. That is an extremely large implant, used much more in cases of reconstruction than in cosmetic breast augmentation.
saline implant profiles
There are different “profiles” of round saline breast implants. ‘Profile’ refers to a combination of how wide an implant is and how much projection (front-to-back dimension) it has. The profile types are ‘moderate’, ‘moderate plus’, and ‘high’. A moderate profile implant is wider and flatter than a high profile implant of the same volume. A moderate-plus implant is in between those two. Imagine that you have three water vases that are shaped differently from each other but all hold the same amount of water. One vase is tall and thin (like a high profile breast implant), one vase is short and wide (like a moderate profile implant), and one vase is in between those two. Having different profiles of implants available allows a more customized approach to breast surgery.
Technique of placement compared to silicone breast implants
Silicone breast implants are pre-filled. Saline implants are empty initially. Because of this, smaller incisions may be used when placing saline breast implants. After the incision is made a pocket is created behind the breast tissue. The empty saline breast implant edges are rolled together into a shape that looks like a folded tortilla (this is Texas, after all!). The empty, folded implant is then inserted into the pocket. Sterile saline is added to the implant, filling it to its final shape and volume.
Benefits of saline breast implants compared to silicone implants
The incisions and resulting scars are usually smaller with saline implants than similar-volume silicone breast implants. Since saline may be added to or removed from the implants, this allows for more “fine tuning” of the final result than when using pre-filled silicone implants. This may be beneficial for a woman who has one breast that is larger than the other. Saline implants also cost less than silicone implants.
candidates for saline breast implants
Saline implants may work well in women who have a little more existing breast tissue than women who have almost no shape or volume. Women of average weight (or even a little ‘plus-sized’) may be good candidates for saline breast implants. In situations where one breast is noticeably larger than the other, saline implants may be a good choice.
How long do saline breast implants last?
Like other medical devices, saline-filled breast implants will wear-out over time. When that happens the saline leaks out and the breast loses shape. The saline is absorbed by the body but now one breast has volume and shape while the other does not. This becomes a bit of a ‘social emergency’. The average length of time that saline breast implants last is about 14 years. When a saline breast implant loses its volume and shape, additional surgery will be needed to either remove or replace it.