Breast Implants: What you Need to Know

Jun 15, 2021 | Breast Augmentation

Breast augmentation has been the number one cosmetic surgical procedure for nearly two decades. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), more than 299,000 women received this cosmetic treatment last year. Furthermore, according to, more than 96% of patients who have had a breast augmentation said that the procedure was worth it. While the journey for each patient is different based on their own needs and goals, taking the time to learn about breast implants can help you make the right choice to serve your long-term goals. This article tells you everything you need to know about all the different types of breast implants.

Types of breast implants 2021

As of 2021, there were three main types of breast implants in the market:

  • Saline breast implants – these constitute a silicone shell that is filled with a sterile saltwater (saline) solution. Saline implants are typically inserted empty during the breast enlargement surgery then later filled to suit the desired shape and volume. Saline implants are FDA-approved for breast augmentation use in women aged 18 or older.
  • Silicone breast implants – these are made up of a silicone shell that is filled with a silicone gel. Since silicone implants come pre-filled from the manufacturer, they typically require a larger surgical scar during the surgery. Silicone implants are approved by the FDA for use in women aged 22 or older.
  • Gummy bear breast implants – also referred to as form-stable implants because they tend to maintain their shape (even if the implant shell breaks), these are a special type of silicone implants that contain a more viscous gel. Gummy bear implants are typically shaped like a tear-drop, with a tapering top and rounded bottom to resemble a natural breast appearance.

When were breast implants invented?

The first saline implant was first created by the Laboratoires Arion Company of France and introduced as a prosthetic medical device in 1964. Silicone breast implants – on the other hand – were invented earlier in 1961. Since then, they have remained a popular choice for breast augmentation procedures due to their long-lasting results and higher safety record.

How long do breast implants last?

While breast implants typically don’t expire, they are not meant to last a lifetime. The majority of saline and silicone implants available in the market right now can be expected to last anywhere between 10 and 20 years. Many breast implants will however be removed sooner due to complications. According to The Mayo Clinic, up to 20% of breast enlargement patients have their implants removed within the first 8 – 10 years.

Which is the best type of breast implant?

There is no ‘perfect type’ of breast implants. Both saline and silicone-filled implants have their pros and cons, and the choice of the right model will be influenced by the precise needs of the patient. Based on statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, however, silicone implants are more popular. These accounted for 85% of breast enlargement procedures in 2019, compared to only 15% of breast augmentation procedures completed using saline implants.

Why do my implants look so small?

Soon after the breast augmentation surgery, many women complain that their implants look smaller than they expected. This is because the muscle and tissues in the breast are tight, compressing the implants. However, with time, these tend to relax and loosen, allowing the implant to fall into a more natural (and often pleasing) position. If you are still concerned about the size of your implants months after the enlargement procedure, it may be that you are not satisfied with the outcome of the treatment. You may need to contact your plastic surgeon for a revision procedure.

Are breast implants safe?

FDA-approved breast implants undergo thorough testing to ensure their safety and effectiveness before they are allowed into the market. Still, there are a few surgery-related implants risks that patients should be aware of. These include capsular contracture (hardening of scar tissue around the implant), rupture, breast pain, infection, or systematic symptoms (also referred to as breast implant illness). It is important that patients find a skilled plastic surgeon in order to ensure a safe and satisfactory outcome.

How do I choose the right breast implant?

Choosing the right breast implant is a delicate balancing act, and often a cumbersome process for many women. You have to wade through the different sizes, textures, and shapes and still make a reasonable choice. Your plastic surgeon’s guidance will be very valuable during this process. Measurements from your initial consultation will help inform the right size, while cost and personal preference will help you decide between saline and silicone implants. Other factors that also come into play include your body type/frame, concerns for scarring, desired shape, and the current appearance of your breasts. In a nutshell, the right breast implant should give you the desired breast shape and appearance, while also offering safety, maintainability, and proportionality to your body frame.

What does breast implant surgery entail?

Breast implant surgery is an outpatient procedure that is typically carried out under general anesthesia. The surgeon will create an incision in the skin next to or below the breast, position the implant below the chest muscle or beneath the breast tissue, then close the incisions and cover the treatment area with a dressing. This procedure takes between 1 and 2 hours to complete. You will be allowed to go home on the same day and can expect to get back to light work within 4-6 weeks.

Will breast implants help with sagging?

Breast implants are designed to help women who have small breasts achieve a voluminous and more shapely contour. If you have breast sagging, then you need a separate procedure that is known as a breast lift (mastopexy). This is a cosmetic surgery treatment that removes excess skin in order to restore a firmer breast appearance and repositions the nipples to move them higher on the chest. It is possible to combine breast augmentation and breast lift procedures to lift drooping breasts while also increasing their size. Get in touch with your plastic surgeon to learn more about the best procedure option for you.

How to take care of your breast implants

Taking proper care of your breast implants after augmentation is important in order to ensure a satisfactory outcome. Immediately after the surgery, make sure to adhere to the post-operative recovery instructions. Wear the right bra, massage the implant displacement massage, and know what to look out for over the first few months. Breast implants tend to rupture due to aging, trauma, needle insertion, or other similar factors. Watch out for deflation (in the case of saline implants) that may indicate that the implant is leaking. Patients who have a silicone implant will need to undergo periodic MRI imagine scans to check that the implant is working properly.

Will breast implants change after pregnancy?

Many women are concerned about how a pregnancy will affect their breast implants. Breast implants tend to give a perkier, more voluminous breast appearance. Following the pregnancy, the size of your breasts is likely to change. The top of the breast may become somewhat deflated due to loss of skin elasticity after the pregnancy. Keep in mind that it takes up to 6 months after childbearing for any changes to your body (as a result of the pregnancy) to be visible. If you feel that you are not happy with the new look, you may decide to have a revision breast augmentation procedure. Your plastic surgeon may recommend that you wait until after childbearing before undergoing a breast enlargement procedure.

When should breast implants be replaced?

Breast implants are typically replaced due to dissatisfaction with their shape, position, or appearance. It is also common for implants to be removed and replaced due to complications such as hardening (capsular contracture), saline implant leakage and deflation, silicone implant silent rupture, rippling, and palpability, or a change in position. If you are unhappy with your breast implants or need them replaced due to one or more complications, get in touch with your plastic surgeon to schedule a revision procedure.

How often should I get my breast implants checked for leaking?

When saline implants leak, the saline solution will be naturally absorbed by the body, leading to a noticeable deflation. Silicone implant rupture, on the other hand, is not always noticeable. This is because the thick silicone gel becomes trapped in the surrounding breast tissue. The FDA recommends that women who have silicone breast implants have an MRI scan three years after the breast enlargement surgery and every two years after that.

Do breast implants cause Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL)?

In 2019, the FDA requested Allergan (a breast implant manufacturer) to recall their Biocell textured implants and tissue expanders. This was after a study established that breast augmentation patients who had received these implants were at a higher risk of BIA-ALCL (Breast Implant-Associated-ALCL). ALCL is a rare form of immune system cancer that affects less than 10 patients per year. Prior breast enlargement patients who have this type of implant and are concerned about their risk of this cancer can have them removed and replaced with a safer alternative.