Breast Implants

Silicone Implants and Safety

After 14 years of restriction, silicone breast implants have once again been approved for primary breast augmentation (FDA Approval in December 2006). Silicone breast implants were removed from the market in 1992 after concerns regarding various health problems in women who received these implants, including pain, fatigue, arthritis, cancer, “silicone poisoning,” etc. In 1998, multiple class action and individual lawsuits eventually caused the bankruptcy of Dow Corning, the primary manufacturer of silicone implants.

Multiple scientific studies were conducted in the wake of this legal barrage. There was no significant association of silicone implants to these alleged adverse health claims. There was no significant increase in the incidence of cancer or auto-immune diseases; there was no significant evidence of a toxic reaction to silicone and the concept of “silicone poisoning” was false.

From 1992 to 2006, women could only be eligible for silicone breast implantation if 1) they already had silicone implants and were undergoing exchange, 2) they had specific complications from existing saline implants, or 3) they were undergoing breast reconstruction after mastectomy for cancer. These patients had to be enrolled in an institutional study conducted by the implant manufacturing companies in collaboration with the plastic surgeons.

After critical review of previous studies and the data generated from the ongoing research, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons endorsed the use of silicone implants for all women desiring breast augmentation. In December, the FDA gave its final approval with conditions imposed upon the implant manufacturers to continue their long-term studies and to provide device tracking.

Silicone versus Saline Implants

Many plastic surgeons prefer silicone breast implants over saline (salt water) implants because of superior aesthetics. Silicone tends to be more natural appearing and feeling. Women will benefit greatly from the added choices they will have in breast augmentation, and from the peace of mind of knowing that today’s breast implant is one of the most carefully scrutinized and tested medical devices ever. Dr. Ha can discuss the benefits and risks of breast augmentation with silicone implants during a consultation; they are now finally available for all women.

It is important to consider that implants do carry weight and over time stresses the elasticity of the skin. Thus, as aging breasts descend on the chest wall, breast implants will do the same. The larger the implant (more weight) the greater the potential drop when inserted. This does not occur with everyone, and factors such as genetics and individual skin/breast quality play a role.

Surgical Procedure and Recovery

During surgery, the implants are placed either underneath the pectoralis muscle (sub-muscular) or simply underneath the breast tissue itself (sub-mammary). Saline implants are most commonly placed under the muscle as this can most effectively camouflage potentially visible edges of the implant. Breast augmentation is usually a day surgery lasting 30 minutes to an hour. Recovery is fairly rapid with most women resuming normal activity within 2 to 7 days.

Potential complications include rupture or failure of the implant, migration or malposition of the implants, abnormal scarring around the implant, and poor aesthetic healing of the insertion scars.

For lack of a better analogy, breast augmentation surgery should be viewed somewhat like the purchase of a car. The car has a limited lifetime and will need periodic maintenance. Breast implants typically will last 10 to 15 years before succumbing to rupture due to weakening of the outer shell. Abnormal scarring or progressive descent of the implants may require periodic surgery for implant exchange or breast lifting.

There are many factors surrounding breast augmentation. A comprehensive consultation with Dr. Ha will help guide you through the decision-making process to achieve an individually tailored treatment plan. The outcome of which will be a beautiful breast enhancement that is natural and proportional.