Breast implants have a long and convoluted history in cosmetic medicine. Invented decades ago, doctors began preferring silicone implants in the 1960s. In the 1990s, though, a court case resulted in a nationwide ban on the use of silicone implants. Instead, surgeons and patients were only able to rely on saline for use in breast implants. In 2006, the ban was lifted. Since then, these types of implants have made a strong comeback and once again make up the majority of breast augmentation surgeries.
The Silicone Ban
Beginning in the 1980s, some women who had previously undergone silicone breast implants began to complain that they were suffering serious health complications due to ruptures. In the mid-1990s, the courts decided to pause silicone breast implants in order to study the matter. The investigation did not turn up any evidence that silicone had hurt these women. In 2006, the ban was lifted.
During the ban, women interested in breast augmentation had been forced to get saline implants or go abroad to undergo surgery for silicone implants. As soon as the ban was lifted, the number of domestic requests for silicone breast implants surged. By the end of that year, a full 19% of the scheduled surgeries for implants had used silicone. Renewed interest in this type of plastic surgery continued. By the end of 2012, silicone breast implants made up more than 70% of the total number of breast implants.
Silicone vs. Saline
The silicone vs. saline debate is a big one for patients considering this surgery. Implant surgery is invasive and takes months of recovery, so this is not a trial-and-error type situation. Once a patient decides to get a certain kind of implant, she will not want to change them quickly afterward.
Costs and Scarring
Most patients and surgeons appear to agree that silicone implants feel more natural and look more appropriate from the exterior. However, this is not the only factor that goes into deciding which implant to choose. Costs and issues such as scarring and replacement also have to be considered.
For example, while silicone implants may feel more natural, about 20% of them have to be replaced within 10 years of the first surgery. This is problematic because the typical implant patient is in her mid-30s. In 10 years, she will still be in middle age and possibly busy with a career and children. Having to take time out for another expensive surgery, which will not be covered by insurance or any sort of warranty, will be difficult to say the least.
Some patients are attracted to saline implants because the surgery is much less traumatic. Surgeons leave smaller scars because they can insert a deflated implant through a small incision and fill it with water through a tube later. Saline implants are also a little less expensive. Silicone implants usually cost about $3,900 on average, while saline implants go for just $3,500.