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What Are The Differences In Saline Vs. Silicone Breast Implants?

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For women considering breast augmentation for cosmetic reasons, reconstruction after breast surgery, or otherwise, one of the most important decisions is what kind of implant to use. While there is no hard and fast rule about which type of breast implant is better, there can be advantages for one over the other depending on a patient’s individual needs. To determine which kind of breast implant may be right for you, it's important to consult a qualified, experienced physician.

The board-certified plastic surgeons at Austin-Weston, The Center for Cosmetic Surgery in Reston, VA, perform hundreds of breast augmentations each year and are well versed in the intricacies of the various types of implants. During your initial consultation, your surgeon will take time to evaluate your case, discuss your goals, explain your options, answer your questions, and recommend a course of action. Some of the main points of discussion during this appointment will be the ideal breast implant size and the type of implant to be used. The two most widely used breast implant types are saline and silicone gel, and each has unique features that may make it more suitable for each patient.

What is the difference between silicone and saline breast implants?

Both silicone and saline implants have a silicone-based outer shell, and the main difference between the two lies in the filling. Saline breast implants contain a saltwater, or saline, solution, while silicone breast implants are filled with a thicker, denser silicone gel.

Do saline or silicone implants look more natural? 

The question of which type of breast implant looks the most natural is somewhat divisive and comes down to several factors including personal opinion. For thinner women with smaller natural breasts, silicone implants may result in a more natural look due to a lack of native tissue and fat to conceal the rippling that can often occur with saline implants. Your surgeon will help you determine which type of implant can help you achieve your aesthetic goals.

Do silicone or saline breast implants feel more natural?

While both types of implants have stayed in demand over the years, silicone gel implants are generally considered to have a more natural feel. The gelatinous filling closely mimics the texture and density of human fat, making silicone implants a popular choice for women who are eager to have breasts that feel natural to the touch.

Which breast implant is the safest?

Silicone and saline implants are both FDA-approved for use in breast augmentation, though there was a period when the FDA revoked their approval for silicone implants due to concerns over implant safety. In 2006, studies showed that there was no evidence to support those concerns, and the FDA once again approved silicone implants.

One concern that many Northern Virginia women have when considering breast implants is the safety of saline versus silicone in the event of a rupture. If a saline implant ruptures, the harmless solution inside will leak out and be absorbed by the body. However, the breast will almost immediately appear deflated, and surgery will be required to remove the empty shell and replace it with a new implant, if desired. In the case of a rupture of a silicone gel implant, the non-fluid filling will not leak out, and the breast shape will remain intact. Without performing an MRI, it can be nearly impossible to tell when a silicone implant has ruptured and needs to be replaced. Breast implants — whether silicone or saline — are not designed to last a lifetime and will likely need replacement or revision at some point in the future. The knowledgeable surgeons at Austin-Weston can also discuss the option of fat transfer as an alternative to breast implants. This procedure involves injecting a patient’s own fat from elsewhere in the body into the breast.

Is the recovery different for saline vs. silicone implants?

Regardless of whether a patient chooses silicone or saline breast implants, the surgical technique and recovery timeline for both types of implants is very similar. Depending on a patient’s specific case and whether any additional procedures such as a breast lift or tummy tuck are being performed, the surgery typically lasts about 1 – 3 hours and is performed under general anesthesia. Saline implants may either be prefilled or inserted into the breast pocket and then filled, while silicone gel implants are always prefilled. The surgeon will carefully place the incisions in a predetermined location — often under the breast fold — in order to minimize the visibility of any resulting scars. The implant is inserted, filled if necessary, and the incisions are closed.

Patients with either silicone or saline implants can expect roughly the same level of discomfort, swelling, and bruising after surgery, all of which should subside within 1 – 2 weeks and can be relieved with prescribed medication. Both types of implants take about 3 – 6 months to settle into their final place.

Are saline or silicone implants right for me? 

To answer the question of which type of breast implant is best in your particular case, it is essential to consult an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon. Your doctor can guide you through the process of choosing the size and type of breast implant that will give you your ideal result. Call Austin-Weston, The Center for Cosmetic Surgery in Northern Virginia to schedule your breast augmentation consultation today. Learn more about how we can help you enhance your look, boost your confidence, and change your life.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.