By Dr. Jeremy Pyle
In the early days of augmentation, the only choice was whether or not to choose breast enhancement surgery at all. But now, almost 50 years later, women have a choice of multiple implant types, styles and profiles, which can achieve excellent outcomes but which also make selecting the right implant much more complex. When looking at the two basic choices for breast implants—silicone gel vs. saline—is there a better option from the surgeon’s perspective?
The short answer is: “It Depends.” But, for the majority of women seeking breast augmentation these days, silicone gel implant options will provide a more satisfying outcome. That’s not to say that there is no place for saline implants in modern breast augmentation procedures. For starters, this implant type is the only option for women age 18-22. Saline implants are slightly lower in price and some women like the fact that, in the event of a tear or rupture, the saline fluid inside the implant will be immediately and harmlessly absorbed by the body. But silicone gel implants offer greater advantages in the eyes of most plastic surgeons and women considering breast enhancement.
Focusing on Silicone Gel Implants
Ever since they were approved in the U.S. in 2006, newer generations of silicone gel implants have become very popular. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, silicone gel implants were used in 62% of breast augmentation surgeries and saline implants were used in 38% of breast augmentation surgeries in 2012. With newer silicone gel implant types available, it is likely that even more women will choose silicone implants in coming years.
Here are a few reasons why silicone gel implants are often preferred:
- Implant Palpability: The gel material within a silicone implant feels a lot like natural breast tissue. In contrast, saline implants feel more fluid – which makes sense, because they contain a fluid, not a gel. Even when a saline implant is placed under the chest muscle, it is likely that the breast will not feel as natural as compared to if a silicone gel implant were used.
- Implant Appearance: The gel within silicone implants also behaves much more like natural breast tissue. As a result, this implant type more easily “blends in” with surrounding tissue, and does not exhibit the rippling or wrinkling that can be seen with saline implants.
Women who are naturally thinner and have less breast tissue are in most cases better candidates for silicone gel implants. Women with more existing breast tissue may consider saline implants, though even here silicone gel implants are likely to look and feel better.
A Note on Incision Preference
A strong patient preference for one incision placement technique over another may affect the type of implant that can be used. For example, axillary incisions (within the armpit) are quite small and are most appropriate for saline implants, which are fully deflated when inserted and then filled once in place. Silicone gel implants come prefilled from the manufacturer, and volume cannot be adjusted. This makes silicone implants larger at the outset, necessitating a slightly longer (usually inframammary) incision.
The Role of Surgical Skill
Keep in mind when you are considering your implant options that a skilled plastic surgeon can achieve a beautiful breast augmentation outcome for most women using either implant type. Many doctors and patients prefer silicone gel implants, but a skilled breast augmentation surgeon can achieve attractive results with saline implants as well. In fact, surgical skill and experience are extremely important considerations, and deserve just as much attention as your decision about implant type.
Dr. Jeremy Pyle is proud to provide high-quality cosmetic surgery results and a personal approach to patient care. From the first consultation through the final results, Dr. Pyle approaches each step in the surgical process with a wealth of experience and close attention to his patients’ needs. Time and communication are key to understanding your goals, and Dr. Pyle makes sure his patients enjoy the benefits of caring and personal discussion along with state-of-the-art techniques and satisfying outcomes.
Dr. Pyle focuses on breast enhancement and body contouring procedures, including breast augmentation, breast lift, breast reconstruction, abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), and liposuction. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
A native of Chicago and a graduate of the University of Dayton, Ohio, Dr. Pyle graduated from medical school at the University of Illinois before moving to North Carolina to spend six years in Plastic & Reconstructive surgery training at Wake Forest University, Bowman Gray School of Medicine. While performing as Chief Resident he served as Chairman of the Resident Quality Improvement Council and was awarded House Officer of the Year Honors. Dr. Pyle then moved to Raleigh to begin his career as a Plastic Surgeon.
Dr. Pyle serves as a committee member for the North Carolina Medical Society and on the Rex Hospital Institutional Review Board. He is working with the North Carolina Medical Society on an educational video program for young physicians called “The Pyle Files.” He was awarded the 2010 Georgiade Award for Research in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery by the North Carolina Society of Plastic Surgeons.