When it comes to breast surgery, knowledge is power. While silicone breast implants have been very controversial in the last two decades, the recent FDA approval gives women the ability to choose silicone gel options for breast augmentation. Safety of Silicone Gel Breast ImplantsSilicon is a natural element, occurring only second to the abundance of oxygen on earth. When oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon mix together with silicon, it transforms into silicone. It is this silicone that is utilized in many medical procedures, including heart valves, catheters, nerve regeneration, reconstructive implants, drainage systems, and artificial joints.
Whereas silicone was previously banned by the FDA for over a decade, as of November 2006, the FDA approved breast implants made of silicone gel. According to the FDA, who has been tracking the silicone implants data for the last decade, their approval of silicone for breast implants was based upon their belief of its safety for American women. Over the last 10 years, extensive research has been conducted regarding silicone gel implants, and there has been no evidence linking silicone with cancer or connective tissue disease. Nonetheless, due to historical concerns related to the use of implants, the FDA has deemed it a necessity for makers of implants to monitor 80,000 implant patients for a period of 10 years. Only through broad use of silicone gel breast implants can the FDA and medical community accurately judge instances of rarity. Past studies have not observed the progress of breast implant patients beyond a period of three years. Accepted Manufacturers of Silicone Gel Breast Implants At present, the only two manufacturers of saline and silicone breast implants that have been deemed safe by the FDA are Mentor and Inamed (who also goes by the name Allegan or McGhan). Breast implants made by other companies other than these two are not considered to be “reasonably safe” by the FDA and should therefore be avoided. Inamed and Mentor manufacture silicone gel implants, which are encased by three layers of shell. These protective layers reduce the gel bleed, making it safer than previous types for the woman undergoing breast augmentation surgery. The Difference between Silicone Gel and Saline Breast Implants The two breast implant material options, saline and silicone gel, vary in their consistency. Some women believe that the silicone gel implant has a more “natural” feel, as it has a thicker viscosity that mimics the consistency of fat. Indeed, if you touch the silicone gel implants outside your body, they may initially feel softer than saline breast implants. However, it is important to keep in mind that silicone gel will behave and feel differently once it is in your body. Subsequently, silicone gel implants can feel harder and less natural after it is placed in the breast augmentation surgery. On the other hand, some women think that saline has a firmer impression, which makes it look and feel less natural. However, saline implants have enjoyed new surgical techniques, which have brought a more natural consistency and feeling to these breast implants. Another important difference between saline and silicone gel implants is how they are filled. Whereas saline implants are precisely filled once they have been placed into your body (and thus, only require a very small incision), silicone gel implants are manufactured pre-filled. Therefore, silicone gel implants necessitate a larger incision, and thus, you will be left with a longer scar than with a saline breast implant procedure. There are also age restrictions between silicone gel and saline breast implants. You only need to be at least 18 years old for a saline breast implant surgery, or any age if you are undergoing reconstructive surgery. In contrast, in its current FDA regulation, you must be at least 22 years old to choose a silicone gel breast implant (unless you are undergoing reconstructive surgery) because of the fact that a woman’s breasts will grow through her early 20s. In addition, the FDA feels that a woman who is at least 22 years old can make a mature, informed decision based upon the potential risks and ongoing costs of a silicone gel breast augmentation surgery. The ideal choice between saline or silicone gel breast implants depends on each individual’s circumstance. The best way to decide which breast implant is right for you is to speak with your Honolulu plastic surgeon, who can assess your individual situation and expectations to determine the ideal material for you. Duration of ImplantsUnfortunately, implants do not have a lifespan as long as their patients. On average, breast implants last up to 10 years, while some will last as many as 15 years. The younger a patient is when she has breast implants, the more likely she will have to go through a number of surgeries in her lifetime. Cost of Breast ImplantsBreast surgery of saline implants will cost somewhere in the area of $6,000 to $7,000. If you choose to have silicone implants instead, expect to pay at least $1,000 more. Most health insurance plans will not foot the bill for breast augmentation surgery if it is for cosmetic purposes. The majority of companies will not pay for any complications, serious or otherwise, that arise from breast implant surgery. Women who have silicone gel breast implants are required to have a breast MRI every three years after the surgery to check for ruptures. The vast majority of insurance companies will not pay for these tests either. Before you schedule your breast surgery with your Honolulu plastic surgeon, find out what your health insurance company will and will not cover in regard to this surgical procedure. Speaking candidly with your Honolulu plastic surgeon about your expectations will provide you with the best results, regardless if you choose silicone gel or saline breast implants