With more than 280,000 procedures performed each year, breast augmentation is the single most popular form of cosmetic surgery. It involves the placement of implants within the breast cavity to achieve a more desirable appearance. Additionally, some people seek breast augmentation surgery to improve their posture.

But not all breast implants are the same. The two most common types of implants include saline and silicone, each of which has its own unique characteristics To learn more about saline and silicone breast implants, and which one is right for you, keep reading.

Saline Breast Implants

Originally pioneered by Laboratoires Arion in the mid-1960s for use in medical devices, saline implants consist of a sterile solution of sodium chloride (salt) and water. While advancements in cosmetic surgery have led to new and improved methods for breast augmentation, saline implants remain a popular choice among patients.

During the procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision under the patient’s breast, after which he or she inserts the empty implant. The surgeon then fills the empty implant with the saline solution. Because saline implants can be placed into the breast while empty, they require a somewhat smaller incision when compared to conventional silicone implants.

Saline breast implants can be adjusted to meet the patient’s unique needs. They also offer a soft, realistic texture.

Silicone Breast Implants

The majority of breast augmentation surgeries performed today now use silicone implants. Consisting of polmers known as polysiloxanes, silicone gel is thicker and more viscous than its saline counterpart. As such, it typically requires a slightly larger incision. However, silicone implants offer an even more realistic appearance and texture, as well as a lower risk of rippling. For these reasons, most patients prefer silicone implants over saline.

There are actually five generations of silicone-gel implants, with each subsequent generation offering improved results.

The first generation of silicone implants was essentially a rubber teardrop-shaped sac that was emplaced into the patient’s breast. The advent of the second generation of silicone implants, though, offers improved functionality with a lower risk of rupture. This is because second-generation silicone implants features a polyurethane foam coating over the shell, protecting it from rupture.

The third and fourth generations of silicone implants were developed in the 1980s. They featured an even stronger shell consisting of an elastomer coating, as well as a thicker and more cohesive filler gel. Manufacturers also made these generations of implants more realistic by modeling them after natural breasts.

Fast forward to the 1990s and the fifth generation (current generation) of silicone implants was developed. The filler consists of a semi-solid gel that practically eliminates the risk of leakage. Furthermore, the high cohesion properties of this gel ensures the implant stays in place while subsequently reducing the risk of migration to other parts of the body.

Which Type of Implant Should I Choose?

Both saline and silicone implants offer a realistic appearance and texture. However, there are subtle nuances between the two. Saline, for instance, requires a somewhat smaller incision, but silicone implants offers enhanced aesthetics with a lower risk of rippling. With the invention of the keller funnel, a sterile funnel that looks like a pastry funnel, silicone implants can now be placed through a much smaller incision then used to be able.

If you’re considering surgical breast augmentation, schedule an appointment with your cosmetic surgeon to discuss the characteristics of saline and silicone implants. In addition to implant type, you’ll also need to choose between low, medium and high profile. Different profiles offer different projections. Only you and your surgeon can determine which implant is best suited for you.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has approved both saline and silicone-filled implants for breast augmentation surgery. However, the minimum age recommended by the FDA for saline implants is 18, while the minimum age recommended age by the FDA for silicone implants is 21.