If you are considering breast augmentation, one of the most important decisions you will need to make is what type of breast implant to choose. You may have heard about different types: saline, round gel, and highly cohesive, otherwise known as the gummy bear implant. Which is best for you? Understanding the differences between the different implants can help you make an educated decision.
By Patricia McGuire, MD
What do they have in common?
Silicone implants are not lifetime devices, as nothing man made will last forever. They can last from 10 to 15 years, possibly longer in some of the newer devices and will eventually have to be replaced through a surgical procedure. All silicone implants have an outer silicone shell, what differentiates them is the surface of the shell, and what fills the implant.
Now the differences:
Saline implants have a silicone shell on the outside, and are filled with sterile saline; intervaneous fluid. The advantages of saline implants are that they are the least expensive and can be placed through a small incision. The average life span of a saline implant is about 10 years. The disadvantage of saline implants is that they don’t last as long as gel implants and don’t always feel as natural as gel implants. There is also a higher likelihood of visible rippling of the implant.
Silicone gel implants have a silicone shell on the outside, and contain silicone gel. During the last decade there have been significant improvements in the gel, which has resulted in cohesive implants. The round gel implants have a gel similar to the consistency of taffy.
The highly cohesive gel implants are also known as gummy bear implants, and have a gel that is firm enough to hold a shape, but soft enough to feel like a breast. Both are a significant improvement over the older gel implants. The difference between the round and highly cohesive implants is the shape. The gummy bear implant is teardrop shaped and can give a more natural looking breast. The advantage of both types of gel implants is that they feel more natural than saline and can last longer, the average is 12-15 years. The disadvantage of these implants is that when they do leak, you may not know until you have a mammogram. Your plastic surgeon will see you on a regular basis for follow up and will examine you for changes.
Which is best for you?
You need to see a board certified plastic surgeon who can examine you and discuss which implant is best for you. The gummy bear implant has only been available under an FDA approved study, by a limited number of plastic surgeons. If you are considering a highly cohesive implant be sure a surgeon who has experience with this implant is seeing you. I have been a principle investigator the Allergan Style 410 implant since 2001, so I have a lot of experience with it, and all types of implants. All of these implants can give you a good result from your surgery, understanding the risks and benefits of each can help you make the right decision for you.