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Saline versus Silicone: The Differences between Breast Augmentation Implants

Breast augmentations have provided countless women with a look that increases their self-confidence, gives their figures a more flattering appearance, and improves their body image overall. Because of the underlying improvements of breast augmentations, women have reported that their clothes have a better fit, and their self-conscious feelings decrease.

The breast augmentation procedure enhances the size and shape of the breasts using implants that are inserted over or under the pectoral muscles. What’s common about all breast implants is that they have a shell that’s made out of an inert polymer called silicone. This shell can have either a smooth or textured surface. A smooth-walled implant will roll around subtly in each breast pocket, which mimics the movement of natural breasts. Textured implants will encourage soft tissue to grow within their small surface interstices, which helps to keep the implants stiffly in place.

Breast implants aren’t a “one size fits all” path to breast augmentation. There are varieties of base widths, projection amounts, and fill volumes. Your board-certified New York plastic surgeon will carefully select and match the right implant for you to achieve your desired results.

So let’s look at the differences between breast implants that have a saline (sterile saltwater) solution in their shell, and those that have a silicone gel.

Saline Breast Implants

Saline breast implants use a silicone shell that is inserted into the body empty, and then filled with the desired amount of saline solution by a board-certified plastic surgeon. The saline solution has the consistency of water, so it’s analogous to a water balloon in its appearance. Saline breast implants are available to women age 18 and older for breast augmentation and to women of any age for breast reconstruction.

Saline has a very similar consistency to water, which makes the implants very pliable. When saline implants are inserted underneath a patient with very thin skin, folds of the implant may be noticeable or felt more often. This is known as implant “rippling” or “wrinkling”.

Some saline implants can have the advantage of being able to be adjusted post-op by way of a remote injection port. In some variations of breast reconstruction procedures, this is commonly used to fine-tune the volume of the final implant over the course of months before the implant injection port is removed.

Silicone Breast Implants

Breast augmentation procedures using silicone implants is one of the most popular procedures that board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Kevin Tehrani, performs at Aristocrat Plastic Surgery & MedAesthetics. Silicone implants come in various shapes and sizes and consist of silicone gel and a silicone case. Silicone is a synthetic material that feels similar in consistency to human fat, which is why there’s a soft, natural feel to them when they’re used for breast augmentation. The famous “gummy bear implants” are highly cohesive silicone gel implants and are known for retaining their shape better than other implants.

Most women have the belief that silicone breast implants have a look and feel that more closely resembles natural breast tissue. Silicone breast implants are available to women who are at least 22 years of age and older for breast augmentation, and to women of any age who are looking to have breast reconstruction.

After having breast augmentation with silicone implants, it’s very important and recommended by the FDA to get an MRI screening every few years to make sure that implants are in the correct position and that no rupturing has occurred. While leaking silicone gel isn’t linked to any health problems, it can cause discomfort in some patients. In the unlikely case where a rupture happens, our experienced, board-certified surgeons can perform implant removals or implant exchange.

Anatomical Versus Round Silicone Breast Implants

The visible difference between anatomical breast implants to others is that they’re contoured as opposed to round, and are fuller on the bottom/base while less full on the top. They are more shaped like the natural breast, and sometimes called “teardrop shape” implants. Anatomical breast implants were used for breast reconstruction following a mastectomy in the past, but as it became more obvious that women preferred the more natural look of the implants, they became popular for cosmetic breast augmentation procedures as well.

Another benefit anatomical implants provide, is customization. They can be customized to fit your individual physical makeup. They also come with saline, silicone, and gummy bear fillings. Patients can choose from different profiles and heights to achieve the look they want.

At Aristocrat, our patients have the opportunity to use our VECTRA 3D imaging technology that allows them to “try on” different breast augmentation sizes and shapes to help decide on the implant they want. For example, a patient that’s looking to maximize their cleavage might select a round anatomical implant to achieve their look.

The textured shell structure of anatomical implants also allows the shell to adhere to the breast tissue within the pocket where the implant resides. The adherence prevents the implant from turning so that if, for example, a round implant turns, there’s no visible change because it’s symmetrical all around. On the other hand, if a teardrop-shaped implant turns, the full portion could move to the top with the less full portion ending up on the bottom, creating a deformed shape. The textured shell helps to avoid the occurrence of this problem and also makes the implant less likely to develop scar tissue that can cause the implant to become hard.

Structured Saline Implants – Ideal Implants

The other type of implants offered at Aristocrat Plastic Surgery are structured saline implants (Ideal Implants). These implants are technically saline but they have the look and feel of silicone gel. Ideal implants require zero follow-up care and no MRIs as the rupture can be detected easily by examining breasts in the mirror (there is no risk of so-called “silent rupture” common for patients who underwent breast augmentation with silicone implants).

Ideal implants are filled up with saline right after the insertion. By adjusting the volume of saline we add, we can control the size and profile of an implant. Patients who pick ideal implants can undergo a breast augmentation of any technique including TUBA breast augmentation – scarless breast augmentation that is performed through a patient’s belly button.

Tuba (Transumbilical) Breast Augmentation

Transumbilical Breast Augmentation is the breast augmentation technique when breast implants are placed through an incision in the belly button, leaving no visible scars on the body. This method of breast augmentation is associated with minimal pain and a faster recovery.

However, the TUBA method is used only with saline implants, as only saline implants can be inserted through a long subcutaneous tunnel extending from the belly button to the breasts. Initially this method didn’t allow surgeons to place implants behind the muscle but as the technique was refined, it became possible to place implants in any position chosen by the surgeon. Dr. Tehrani is one of the few surgeons internationally to perform this unique procedure and teaches this in his fellowship program to other plastic surgeons. TUBA breast augmentation is also called the scarless breast augmentation because the incision is made in the natural folds of the belly button.

Which Breast Augmentation Procedure Is Right For You?

Based on your breast anatomy, body type, and other factors, a board certified plastic surgeon might recommend one type of implant over another for the best results. A key step in the breast augmentation process is to schedule a consultation with Dr. Kevin Therani, a board certified plastic surgeon at Aristocrat Plastic Surgery & MedAesthetics. Dr. Tehrani has performed hundreds of successful breast implant procedures, breast augmentations, and has vast experience in this area of plastic surgery.

Schedule your breast augmentation consultation today to discuss which breast augmentation and implant solution is best for you.

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