Spring into Plastic Surgery, Week 3! Are Silicone Implants Really As Safe As Saline?

For the thousandth time, YES!–silicone is just as safe as saline when it comes to what fills your breast implant.  The early 1990’s was a dark time for silicone implants.  The FDA placed a moratorium on the silicone implants and they were not in use in the United States again until 1998 unless you had access to a study protocol, in which the implants could only be used in very specific instances. The moratorium was lifted in 2006, and since then there has been an “arms race” between the different implant manufacturers to see who can build the better implant, giving us fantastic options in silicone implants.

But wait, you’re asking, “What about the moratorium? Don’t gloss over that, Doctor Haws!”

The moratorium on silicone happened because of a perfect storm of events.  There were questions brought out about silicone implants causing implant related autoimmune diseases.  Many women came forward who had been diagnosed with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis or chronic fatigue syndrome whose symptoms developed in the years after their breast augmentation.   When these questions came out, there were no answers.  Breast implants had never been studied in that way.  No one had data to support their stand beyond anecdotal reports. So, the FDA called for the moratorium. After that numerous studies were conducted looking at past and present implant patients, as well as future patients who were followed from day one.  15 years later, in 2006, we finally had the answers!

There is no increased incidence in autoimmune disease in women with silicone implants.  Those diseases happen at the same rate in age-matched women without breast implants.  Can implants cause you problems? You bet!  Especially the original first and second generation implants that were super soft, but ruptured very easily.  Women had terrible problems with ruptured implants causing hardness of the breast, and with the old implants, gel migration into lymph nodes.  But there wasn’t any evidence that suggested the silicone implants caused any of the autoimmune diseases that everyone worried about.

The best thing that came out of the moratorium was good science that really looked at the implants and pushed the companies to make a better product.  Now we have more cohesive fifth generation gel in many of the implants which don’t ooze if the implant ruptures.  Nicknamed as gummy bear implants, these are implants that you can cut in half and the gel doesn’t spill out.  Shockingly, these implants still feel quite soft.   The fourth generation gel implants, which are softer because the gel is thinner, are still available, and still considered to be much better than those from the 1980’s.

What about saline? Just imagine a ziplock bag full of water, and that is your saline implant. But if you still want saline breast implants, hey, it’s your body, you are in charge and you get what you want.  My job is just to give you information to help in your decision.

At the Plastic Surgery Center of Nashville we have all types of implants for you to feel to help make your decision.  Give us a call!

-Melinda Haws, MD