Are Breast Implants Safe? Yes And Here’s Why

Like Goldilocks, some women think their breasts are too big. Others think they’re too small. And amazingly, a small minority of women think their breasts are just right. For women who want larger, fuller breasts, breast implants are a safe, highly successful way to get the breast size they’ve always wanted. 

Two Types Of Breast Implants

There are two general types of breast implants available in the United States: silicone and saline. Both consist of a silicone outer shell; the difference is what is inside the implants.

  • Silicone breast implants are filled with silicone gel
  • Saline breast implants are filled with saline or sterile saltwater

Most women and plastic surgeons prefer the look and feel of silicone breast implants, which are generally considered to be more like real breast tissue. Saline implants are more prone to cause rippling of the skin.

It is important to note that your plastic surgeon may have a strong recommendation for one type of breast implant over another. For my patients, I always take into consideration:

  • your body type
  • your age
  • the current size of your breasts

Silicone Breast Implants: FDA Approved To Be Safe

Silicone breast implants were first introduced in the United States in 1962. During the 1980s, the popularity of silicone breast implants greatly increased, but so did reports of their supposed risks. Sometimes the silicone gel implants ruptured, and consequently, many women claimed that there was a link between ruptured silicone gel implants and an increased risk of immunological disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and other conditions.

In 1992, the FDA restricted the use of silicone breast implants to women having breast reconstruction after surgery for breast cancer. For the next 14 years, women who wanted breast augmentation could only receive saline breast implants. In 2006, after reviewing research and finding no connection between silicone implants and disease, the FDA once again approved the sale of certain silicone breast implants.

Saline Breast Implants: Also Proven To Be Safe

Unlike silicone breast implants, saline implants are filled after they are implanted in the breast and require a smaller incision than pre-filled silicone breast implants. Also, many saline implants can be adjusted after surgery. If a woman decides to increase or decrease the size of her saline implants, liquid can be added or taken out without further surgery, whereas the size of pre-filled silicone implants cannot be changed.

What Are the Risks Of Breast Implants?

Although both silicone and saline breast implants are both considered safe, there are some risks associated with each. While studies have not found evidence that breast implants, either silicone or saline, are connected with serious disease, there are still risks. There are also long-term implications. Here are some of the breast implant safety issues that you need to consider.

  • Ruptures
    Ruptures are a risk with either silicone or saline breast Ruptures might be caused by a surgical error, a fall or (very rarely) the pressure exerted on the breast during a mammogram.If a saline breast implant breaks, all that leaks out is saltwater which is harmlessly absorbed into the body. When a silicone breast implant breaks, the leaking silicone stays in your body and can sometimes spread outside the breast and into lymph nodes. Studies have not found that this results in any increased risk of disease. If a silicone implant ruptures, your physician will probably recommend removing the implant and any loose silicone.
  • The need for further surgeries
    Over time, breast implants wear out and need to be replaced. In general, a rupture becomes more likely as breast implants age. The FDA estimates that breast implants should last at least ten years, but studies have shown that some breast implants last much longer than that, and others less.
  • Change in breast shape
    Also over time, breast implants can change shape. One breast might start to look very different from the other. This is because sometimes, the tissue around the implant hardens, requiring surgery.

Choosing The Right Breast Implant For You

Whether you want to enlarge small or underdeveloped breasts, or breasts that have decreased in size after you have had children, getting breast implants is a safe, highly proven way to get the breast size you’ve always wanted. The vast majority of the 300,000 women who get breast implants every year are satisfied with their decision and with how their breasts look and feel. While some women may be concerned about health risks, research has generally not found any association between breast implants and adverse health effects.

If you are thinking about having breast implants, your initial step should be to consult with a board certified plastic surgeon with extensive experience in performing successful breast implant surgeries. Whenever I have a patient seeking breast implants, I make sure that they thoroughly understand the benefits and risks of this specialized surgery. (For more information, please see my Breast Augmentation webpage.)

As I always say, the more you know, the more confident you will feel in your decision and the happier you will be with the results.

Board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS), Samuel J. Beran, MD is a plastic surgeon with offices in Manhattan, Harrison and Valhalla, NY. With years of experience and a thorough command of the most advanced techniques and technologies, he consistently provides his patients with the highest level of plastic, cosmetic and reconstructive surgery of the breast, face, skin and body.