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What Are the 4 Types of Breast Implants?

Dr. Christopher Chung, M.D.
American Board of Plastic Surgery
Chief Medical Officer
Sono Bello

Breast augmentation remains one of the most popular cosmetic surgery procedures worldwide, offering individuals the opportunity to enhance their body contour and boost self-confidence. With advances in medical technology and surgical techniques, patients now have several options when considering breast implants. Understanding the different types of breast implants is crucial for those looking to make informed decisions about their body and health. This article aims to demystify the options available, focusing on the four primary types of breast implants.

1. Gummy Bear Breast Implants

Form-stable implants, commonly referred to as “gummy bear” implants, are a type of silicone implant that maintains its shape even if the implant shell breaks. The gel inside gummy bear implants is thicker and more cohesive than traditional silicone implants, which helps them stay intact.

Gummy bear implants are shaped rather than round, with more projection at the bottom and tapering towards the top. This shape is designed to mimic the natural silhouette of the breast more closely. While gummy bear implants offer advantages in terms of shape retention and a lower risk of rupture, they require a slightly longer incision for placement. Additionally, in the rare event of a shell break, the implant may become distorted, necessitating surgery to replace or remove it.

The teardrop shape of gummy bear implants is designed to provide a gradient of fullness, which can be particularly beneficial for patients seeking a subtle lift or those with mild sagging. This shape mimics the natural slope of the breast, offering an option that is both aesthetically pleasing and realistic. However, due to their firmer consistency, correct positioning by an experienced surgeon is crucial to avoid visible abnormalities. Patients opting for gummy bear implants should also be aware of the potential need for revision surgery, as any rotation or displacement may require corrective procedures.

2. Saline Breast Implants

Saline implants consist of a silicone shell filled with sterile salt water (saline). They are inserted empty and then filled to the desired volume once in place. This allows for a smaller incision and some flexibility in adjusting the size during surgery. Saline breast implants are known for providing a uniform shape, firmness, and feel.

One of the advantages of saline implants is their safety profile. In the event of an implant rupture, the saline solution will be absorbed and naturally expelled by the body. However, some patients find that saline implants feel less natural than silicone options. They may also be more prone to rippling, especially in patients with thinner breast tissues.

Beyond their safety and adjustability, saline breast implants offer another unique advantage: suitability for a wider range of patients. Because they are filled after insertion, they require a smaller incision, which can be beneficial for patients concerned about scarring. This feature makes saline implants a particularly attractive option for younger patients or those undergoing breast reconstruction. Furthermore, the ability to adjust the volume of saline implants during surgery allows surgeons to achieve a more symmetrical appearance for patients with natural asymmetry in breast size.

3. Silicone Breast Implants

Silicone breast implants are filled with silicone gel, a thick fluid that closely mimics the feel of human fat, making them a popular choice for those seeking a more natural look and feel. Silicone implants are pre-filled and may require a larger incision for placement compared to saline implants.

The primary advantage of silicone implants is their ability to provide a more natural texture and less risk of rippling. However, in the event of a rupture, the silicone gel may remain within the implant shell or escape into the breast implant pocket, making it harder to detect ruptures. This condition, known as a “silent rupture,” necessitates regular monitoring through MRI scans every few years, as recommended by healthcare professionals.

Silicone implants have evolved significantly since their introduction, with advancements in gel technology improving their safety and aesthetic outcomes. Modern silicone implants are less likely to leak compared to earlier versions, and their consistency varies from soft to firm, allowing a tailored approach to match each patient’s desired feel and appearance. The choice between traditional silicone

and cohesive gel implants depends on individual preferences and the specific recommendations of a plastic surgeon, who will consider factors such as body type, breast anatomy, and the desired size increase.

4. Structured Saline Breast Implants

Structured saline implants are a newer innovation designed to combine the safety of saline with a feel that more closely resembles natural breast tissue. These implants have an inner structure that aims to make the saline solution behave more like silicone gel.

The structured design helps to reduce the folding and rippling that can be more common with traditional saline implants. They provide a more natural feel than standard saline implants but maintain the safety benefit of saline being harmlessly absorbed by the body in case of rupture.

The innovation behind structured saline implants represents a significant step forward in implant technology, blending the safety profile of saline with advancements aimed at improving aesthetic outcomes. These implants are particularly suited to patients who prioritize safety but are concerned about the natural feel of their breasts post-surgery. The internal structure of these implants is designed to minimize sloshing, a common critique of traditional saline implants, thus providing a more stable and natural-feeling result. As the newest option on the market, structured saline implants demonstrate the ongoing commitment to combining patient safety with the desire for natural-looking enhancement.

Choosing the Right Type of Breast Implant

The decision to undergo breast augmentation is highly personal and should be made based on thorough research and consultations with board-certified plastic or cosmetic surgeons. Each type of breast implant has its unique set of benefits and potential drawbacks. Factors such as the desired aesthetic outcome, body type, lifestyle, and health considerations will influence the most suitable option for each individual.

During consultations, patients should discuss their goals, ask questions about each type of implant, and understand the surgical procedure, including potential risks and recovery expectations. It’s also essential to consider the long-term commitment to breast implant maintenance, including the possibility of future surgeries for replacement or removal.

Breast augmentation offers a pathway for individuals to enhance their body contour and self-esteem. With various implant options available, it’s possible to achieve a look and feel that aligns with personal aesthetic goals. By understanding the differences between the four main types of breast implants—saline, silicone, gummy bear, and structured saline—patients can make informed decisions in consultation with their surgeon. At Sono Bello, we are committed to providing personalized care and support throughout the decision-making process, ensuring that each patient achieves their desired outcomes with confidence and safety.