A breast implant is a medical device (prosthesis) inserted under breast tissue or chest muscle to change the size, contour or shape of the breast. In plastic surgery, breast implants are used to increase breast size, replace breast tissue removed due to trauma or cancer surgery, or to correct severe birth defects and deformities of the breast and the chest wall. There are three main types of breast implants used in plastic surgery: saline implants, silicone implants and structured implants.
Saline breast implants
Saline breast implants are filled with saline solution. They are placed by means of a less invasive surgery through smaller incisions. During the surgery, empty saline implants are inserted into implant pockets and then filled with saline solution. The incisions made for this insertion are smaller and shorter compared to the relatively longer incisions required to place pre-filled implants. Saline breast implants offer an increased breast size with a realistic texture and smooth contour. However, they are associated with cosmetic problems such as the wrinkling of breast skin and the implant being more noticeable to the eye and touch, particularly in women with less breast tissue. For women with enough breast tissue, saline implants produce aesthetically better results.
Silicone gel breast implants
The current models of silicone gel breast implants are filled with a high-strength, highly cohesive silicone gel which reduces the likelihood of filler leakage to the body. These form-stable implants can retain their shape even when their shells are broken. They are also less likely to wrinkle and tend to feel a bit more like natural breasts. However, they require slightly longer incisions for placement and they can spread into the breasts, causing lumps. Breasts augmented using silicone gel implants require regular ultrasound or MRI images for assessing the condition of the implants.
Structured breast implants
Structured implants incorporate both saline and silicone gel implant technologies. They use the saline solution as the filler while having the natural feel of silicone. Their internal structure consists of a series of nested shells that support the upper pole and two lumens (cavities) where the filler material is added. During surgery, a structured implant is inserted while empty and then filled with saline once placed, requiring a smaller incision than a pre-filled implant. And if one of the lumens ruptures after the procedure, it just leaks and empties, leaving the other lumen intact and the implant only partially deflated. This feature allows for ease of removal and replacement.
How are breast implants placed?
When choosing a plastic surgeon for breast implant surgery, finding someone experienced reduces the risk of complications after the procedure. Before the surgery, you will have an appointment with the surgeon for a medical evaluation. Your consultation will allow you to share your goals and expectations with the surgeon, and learn how to prepare for the procedure. Breast implant surgery is usually carried out under general anesthesia. The plastic surgeon makes a cut in the skin below or next to the breast. The implant is positioned either behind your chest muscle or between your breast tissue and chest muscle. The doctor then closes the incision and covers it with a dressing. The procedure usually takes 60 to 90 minutes. You may be able to return home the same day, or you may need to remain in the hospital overnight if the operation is scheduled late in the day. You will be given pain medication to help manage the discomfort after the anesthesia wears off. Your breasts will be covered with compression garments, and drainage tubes will be applied in order to drain the surgical area. Expect to need rest for a few days after the surgery and avoid heavy lifting for at least 6 weeks.
Are breast implants safe?
Breast implants are quite safe and rarely cause issues. Though it is possible for the implants to rupture and leak, they rarely cause medical problems. When saline implants rupture, the salt solution is safely absorbed by the body. For silicone gel implants, the gel either remains in the shell or leaks out following a rupture that results in no obvious symptoms.
How are breast implants maintained?
Breast implants are, by design, not intended to last a lifetime. They may have to be replaced if there are complications or if the breasts change in size and shape over time. If you have silicone gel-filled implants, you will need an MRI scan three years after your implant surgery, and then MRI scans every two years to check for silent ruptures. Ruptured implants should be removed or replaced. At Politis Plastic Surgery, we offer breast implant surgery to enhance the natural appearance of your breasts, create fuller curves, and give you a more aesthetically pleasing shape. We understand that your breasts are a defining feature of your body and enhance your femininity, sexuality and beauty. Through breast augmentation, you can change the size and shape of your breasts and, in turn, your self-confidence.
Are you considering breast augmentation?
Schedule a private consultation today with Dr. Effie Politis and have your questions answered and concerns addressed. For more information on breast implants and breast augmentation, visit the Politis Plastic Surgery website.
Effie Politis, MD, FACS of Politis Plastic Surgery brings both skill and a personalized approach to the care of her plastic surgery patients. She is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.