Breast Implant Surgery – Silicone vs Saline Implants


Patients today may choose to have saline or silicone breast implants for reconstructive surgery or augmentation. Saline implants are elastomer envelopes filled with sterile saline solution once the outer envelope has been placed into the body. Silicone implants are elastomer envelopes pre-filled with silicone gel and placed whole into the body.

Both saline and silicone breast implants are considered safe, although there are clinical trials still being conducted for both old and new materials. Prior to surgery, patients are put under general anesthesia and will not be awake or be able to feel anything for the duration of the surgery.

Breast Augmentation Surgery Procedure

Because saline implants are filled when inside the body, the placement of the implant may be different than that of silicone implants, which tend to require a larger entry site. The surgeon will choose from among the most used placement methods, depending upon the type of implant used and the patient’s preference.

An inframammary incision is placed below the breast on the inframammary fold and allows for easiest placement of silicone implants because of the long incision. This incision, however, may leave the largest and most visible scar. A periareolar incision is placed on the border of the areola but the smaller incision makes it harder to place silicone implants. This method will cut the milk ducts and could potentially cause problems when breast feeding. It is generally chosen when the patient has also opted for a mastopexy.

A transaxillary incision is placed in both armpits and leaves a less noticeable scar, but the smaller incision also makes it harder to place silicone implants. The transumbilical (TUBA) incision is placed in the naval cavity and leaves the least noticeable scar. The implant is slid through the naval cavity and up into the breast pocket, where the implants are then filled. This means that only saline breast implants can be used for this procedure.

Once inside the body, the breast implants will be placed either between the breast tissue and pectoralis muscle (a subglandular placement) or underneath the pectoralis muscle (a submuscular placement). The subglandular placement requires a shorter operation with a less-painful and shorter recovery time, however the implants will be more apparent. The submuscular placement is a longer operation with a more painful and longer recovery time, but the implants may be less apparent.

Breast Augmentation Side Effects and Recuperation

Unfortunately, as with all operations, there are complications associated with breast implants and the chosen placement methods. These include, but are not limited to, infection, breast pain, changes in sensation, migration of implant, rupturing of implant, and capsular contracture.

Some of these complications could require further correctional surgeries or removal of the implant. Recovery time is approximately one week, however strenuous physical activity should be avoided for up to six weeks.

As always, instructions from the surgeon should be followed closely.

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