The Surgeon Minute

Saline to Silicone: Should You Make the Switch?

Saline to Silicone: Should You Make the Switch?
It’s a very common question surrounding breast surgery: Should I upgrade or switch to silicone implants, if I currently have saline implants? In general, most experts will say it comes down to a matter of preference – but there can be some advantages to silicone implants. Veteran plastic surgeon, Dr. Richard Baxter outlines why some patients make the switch and why it makes sense.

Saying Yes to Silicone

It’s one of the biggest trends in breast surgery, making the switch from saline to silicone. Women are learning more about silicone breast implants. “When they find out about silicone and that its a very good option for them, they often want to make the switch from saline,” says Dr. Richard Baxter, a board certified plastic surgeon in the Seattle area.

Silicone breast implants.

Baxter says that’s a flip flop from a little over a decade ago when silicone breast implants were still reserved for clinical trials. It wasn’t until 2006 that the FDA approved silicone breast implants for more widespread use, paving the way for acceptance. “A lot of patients are coming in and they might be thinking about a size change, maybe they are having specific issues like rippling and the things that saline implants do, so they are willing to consider silicone,” shares Baxter.

Saline or Silicone – What’s the Difference

Experts say there are differences between the saline and silicone breast implants that apply in most cases. “The saline implant is basically a bag of water and it can feel like a bag of water,” says Dr. Baxter. He says the silicone implant has a much more natural feel and tends to have very few rippling issues, compared to saline.

Deciding to move from saline to silicone.


Baxter says he almost exclusively uses silicone in his practice, and his patients agree with that option. “Very few patients still want saline,” admits Baxter. He says patients are comfortable there won’t be safety issues with silicone. “We participated in the clinical trials when they were on a restricted basis and we are very comfortable with the safety profile of silicone implants.”

He says patients like how natural silicone feels. “They do like the feel of silicone and so often it is just a better decision for them,” says Baxter.

More Choices, More Reasons to Upgrade

Many women prefer not to look “augmented” and that may be one reason why silicone breast implants are popular. Experts say silicone offers a more natural-looking slope, while saline tends to look very rounded at the top. Overall, the number of options is increasing, giving women more choices.

Saline to silicone before and after.

“Now we have a whole range of profiles in silicone implants and shaped implants and a range of cohesivity of the gel,” says Baxter. He says that means implants are firmer and tend to hold their shape better. “Some of them are softer and more pliable –  so we can really fine tune the implant choice to the patient,” says Dr. Baxter.

Baxter adds that making the switch from saline to silicone isn’t a big process or a long recovery. “It’s usually a simple procedure because you already have the capsule, so the recovery is very quick and it’s a big payoff.”

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