What is the Difference Between Saline and Silicone Breast Implants? Our Guide


If you are considering breast augmentation, you may wonder, “what is the difference between saline and silicone breast implants?” 

When deciding whether saline or silicone implants are better for your needs, it helps to understand a few fundamentals.

Breast augmentation is a surgical procedure designed to increase the size of the breasts and possibly change their shape. Implants may be placed in one of two ways. Subglandular implants are placed behind the breast tissue, while submuscular or subpectoral placement is behind the chest muscles.

Considering why you want breast augmentation is important when choosing your implants. People seek implants for various reasons, including:

  • They are simply unsatisfied with the size of their breasts and want to make a change
  • They want to improve the symmetry between the two breasts
  • Sometimes, the breasts lose volume after breastfeeding, and a woman may want to replace the lost volume
  • Rapid weight loss may have changed the shape and size of the breasts
  • Due to breast cancer or another medical condition, someone may have implants to restore a certain look or confidence

There are as many reasons people seek breast augmentation as there are individuals. Keeping sight of your why may help you identify which option is a better fit for you.

First, the Similarities Between Saline and Silicone Implants

While this post’s main focus is on covering the main differences between saline and silicone breast implants, it is crucial to note a few similarities. Either option is a great choice for some women but not for others.

  • Both are effective ways to change the size or shape of the breasts
  • Both are FDA-approved, indicating a track record of safety for most people
  • Both are long-lasting and durable lasting at least ten years on average
  • Both implants are associated with a slight risk of rare cancer. Discuss the risks with your plastic surgeon since a qualified doctor is in the best position to answer any questions
  • The outer shell is made from an inert polymer called silicone in the case of both types of implants
  • Either may help you get the look you want in the hands of a skilled plastic surgeon

Key Differences Between Saline and Silicone Breast Implants

Materials

The defining difference between saline and silicone breast implants is the material used. Saline implants are filled with sterile salt water. Saline implants became popular in the 1990s as an alternative to silicone.

Sometimes, someone with thin skin may see folds, rippling or wrinkling, or even feel water sloshing. How noticeable this will depend on how much breast tissue is between the saline implant and your skin. It may be less noticeable for someone with a natural “c cup” enlarging to a “d cup” than for someone with an “a cup” enlarging to a “dd cup.” Your surgeon will help you understand what to expect.

Silicone implants are filled with a silicone gel with a cohesive texture similar to gummy bears. (But don’t confuse standard silicone with a silicone variation known as gummy bear implants!) 

Many people find that silicone looks and feel more natural than saline. Due to the texture of the silicone gel, it more closely simulates fat than saline implants. Plastic surgeons have used silicone implants since the 1960s.

Health Risks

Both saline and silicone implants are FDA-approved and have a strong safety record. While no treatment or procedure is right for each individual, your plastic surgeon will examine and review your medical history to ensure you are a good candidate for elective surgery and implants.

Silicone implants have a small risk associated with them, primarily due to ruptures or leaks. When a saline implant ruptures or leaks, the body absorbs the sterile salt water. Also, you notice this rupture sooner since the size and shape of a breast will change.

With silicone implants, you may not notice the leak because the breasts may hold their shape. The Mayo Clinic reports that a ruptured silicone implant may cause:

  • Breast pain
  • Changes in the breast shape
  • Breast thickening
  • Increased risk of needing another operation to remove the implant

According to the FDA, MRI or Magnetic resonance imaging is the best way to identify a silent rupture of a silicone gel-filled implant. Some mistakenly worry that silicone implants increase the risk of serious health problems. You may be relieved to learn that The FDA hasn’t detected any association between silicone breast implants and breast cancer, reproductive issues, or connective tissue disease. They acknowledge some rare systemic symptoms some people experience with either saline or silicone implants that are not well understood.

Talk with your plastic surgeon to learn about any risks and also any specific risk factors. As mentioned, most people with breast implants do not experience any of these health issues.

Age Guidelines and Restrictions

The FDA approved saline implants for people older than 18 years old. On the other hand, silicone implants are approved for people older than 22 years old.

Cost

Silicone implants are often more expensive than saline implants. Saline implants may be easier to insert, and the surgeon can fill them once inside the body. Silicone implants also require more follow-up care, such as periodic MRIs to watch for signs of rupture or leakage.

Which is Right for You?

The choice to have breast augmentation surgery is highly personal and individual. Likewise, so is the choice of whether you prefer saline or silicone implants. Talk with your plastic surgeon about your aesthetic preferences, goals, lifestyle, as well as your complete health and medical history. The best way to work through these decisions is by consulting a skilled plastic surgeon. If you live in or near Charlotte, then Charlotte Plastic Surgery has you covered. Our surgeons have been recognized regionally and nationally for our skilled and compassionate care. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.