Breast Implant History

Saline Breast Implants vs. Silicone Breast Implants

Brief Breast Implant History

Reviewed by Donald Revis, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Believe it or not, breast implants have been used for more than 100 years. You’re very fortunate not to have to use some of those early breast implants (think glass balls, paraffin wax, etc). The types of breast implants in use today have been refined over almost 50 years so they have a long history of effectiveness and safety. Today’s breast implants are filled with either saline (salt water) or silicone gel. The breast implants used in the 1960’s and 1970’s by contrast were filled with silicone liquid. If you’ve heard scary stories about silicone implants, chances are the story is about silicone liquid, not today’s cohesive silicone gel.

Those early silicone liquid implants received a lot of bad press in the 1980’s and 1990’s. While complex, the essential issue is that when an implant filled with silicone liquid ruptured, the liquid would leak into the patient’s body. (Please note that today’s cohesive silicone gel does not leak in the same way.) Many of the supposed health effects from silicone leaks were subsequently disproved, but at the time it was happening, the FDA prudently decided to restrict the use of silicone breast implants.

From 1992, when the FDA limited the use of silicone breast implants, until November 2006, saline implants were the standard in breast augmentation in the United States. Because of this, there are more saline breast implants in use in the United States than any other type of implant. However, clinical trials over the years and the introduction of a new “cohesive” silicone proved the safety and efficacy of silicone implants. The FDA lifted the ban on silicone breast implants on November 17, 2006. Today, if you are at least 22 years old, silicone is a viable choice. If you are not yet 22, you may only have saline breast implants unless you have a reconstructive procedure (as opposed to a cosmetic breast enhancement). This is because the FDA only approved silicone breast implants for use in cosmetic breast augmentation for women who are 22 years of age of older.

Saline vs. Silicone Breast Implants - Quick Topic Navigation

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