Breast augmentation, also known as breast implant surgery is a popular cosmetic surgery to enlarge the size of a woman’s breasts or to reconstruct the breast to correct genetic deformities or after a mastectomy. This procedure is also performed during male-to-female sex changes. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, breast augmentation is the third most commonly performed cosmetic surgical procedure in the United States.
There are three types of implants used in breast augmentation.
- Saline implants, which have a silicone rubber shell filled with sterile saline liquid. These implants are currently the only type available outside of clinical trials in the United States, but future regulations may make more filler types available.
- Silicone gel implants, which have a silicone shell filled with a viscous silicone gel.
- Tissue-engineered implants are a new form currently in development. Cells taken from tissue artificially grown from human stem cells are combined with a scaffold material to produce a Tissue-Engineered Breast Implant. The advantage of this breast augmentation method is that there is no risk of leakage or rupture, and the size can remain stable for the lifetime of the patient, a contrast to the silicone or saline-filled implants which typically reduce by approximately 40%.
Regardless of the type of breast augmentation procedure chosen, it is likely that women with implants will need to have one or more additional surgeries (reoperations) throughout their lives. The most common reasons for reoperations include cosmetic concerns, capsular contracture, and rupture.
Reoperation rates are less frequent in breast reconstruction cases. The major implant manufacturers, Mentor and Inamed, both reported that almost half of their reconstruction patients underwent additional surgeries within three years to fix implant problems, whether their implants were silicone or saline.