There are two primary types of breast implants available for breast augmentation: Silicone and saline. Each type has benefits and drawbacks, which should be carefully considered before making a decision.
Both silicone and saline breast implants use a silicone rubber shell. The differences between silicone and saline implants lie in the type of material inside that shell.
Silicone implants are filled with a fixed amount of silicone gel or a combination of silicone gel and saline.
Saline implants are filled with saline only, which comes directly out of an IV bag.
Both silicone and saline implants come in a variety of types, varying in shape, texture, volume of gel, thickness and number of layers (also known as lumens) of the shell.
Silicone is a compound, a type of plastic material, containing the element silicon. Types of silicone vary quite widely, depending on the type and proportions of other materials included.
Silicone breast implants consist of a rubberlike silicone shell, filled with silicone gel, which has a more fluid consistency than the shell material.
Following are the three general types of silicone gel filled breast implants:
- Single lumen implants prefilled with a fixed volume of silicone gel
- Double lumen implants, in which the inner lumen is filled with a fixed volume of silicone gel, and the outer lumen is filled with a fixed amount of additional gel during the procedure, through a valve.
- Double lumen implants, in which the outer lumen is prefilled with silicone gel, and the inner lumen is filled with saline during the procedure, through a valve. This type of implant allows for adjustments to the amount of saline used, letting the cosmetic surgeon adjust the volume.
Silicone gel-filled implants are currently only available in a limited number of cases, and are not available to patients seeking simple cosmetic breast enhancement. It is possible that the cohesive gel, or gummy bear, silicone implant will be released for use in cosmetic augmentation in the near future.
Are Silicone Implants Right for Me?
Silicone gel-filled implants are currently only available for patients suffering from a severe abnormality or injury to the breast such as the following:
- Mastectomy patients undergoing reconstructive surgery
- Patients who require additional surgery due to problems with existing breast implants
- Patients who suffer from birth defects resulting in deformities of the breast
- Patients having a breast lift in addition to breast enhancement
The saline solution used in breast implants is a sterile solution of salt and water with properties similar to those of human blood.
Like silicone breast implants, saline implants consist of a rubberlike silicone shell. They differ from silicone implants in that the shell is filled with saline rather than silicone.
Primary types of saline implant are as follows:
- Single lumen implants filled through a valve in the lumen during the procedure with a fixed volume of saline.
- Single lumen implants filled through a valve in the lumen with an adjustable amount of saline. This type of implant allows the cosmetic surgeon to make adjustments to the volume during the procedure.
- Single lumen implants prefilled with a fixed volume of saline by the manufacturer. This type of implant has no valves, and the volume cannot be adjusted.