Silicone Breast Implants and Saline Breast Implants

Last year, data from the American Society of Plastic Surgery reveals that over 300,000 breast augmentations were performed in the United States. One of the choices offered to women is whether to select a silicone breast implant or a saline breast implant. Each type of implant has both advantages and disadvantages. One type of implant is not better than the other.

History Of Breast Implants

Breast augmentation with implants was approved in the United States in 1962. In 1992 silicone implants were removed from the United States market by the FDA for health concerns. From then until 2006 only saline breast implants were available. Silicone implants were reformulated by the implant manufacturers and approved for use in the United States by the FDA. Currently, women 22 years of age or older may select either silicone or saline breast implants for cosmetic breast augmentation. In Virginia Beach, Galumbeck Plastic Surgery offers both types of implants.

Implant Construction

Both saline and silicone implants are manufactured with a silicone elastomer shell. Saline implants are filled with sterile salt water after the empty implant shell has been placed into the breast pocket. Silicone implants are pre-filled with a cohesive silicone gel when they are produced.

Currently two forms of silicone fill for breast implants are approved in the United States. One is cohesive silicone gel. The other is form stable cross linked silicone gel, also known as gummy bear implants. Both forms of silicone do not free leak like old silicone implants did. The gummy bear implant is utilized for sloping or tear drop shaped implants. These implants are firmer than the round gel implants and thus maintain their sloping shape. The silicone gel has a consistency similar to human fat tissue and, thus, has a more natural feel than saline implants.

Silicone Breast Implants Shape Virginia BeachBreast implants can be filled with saline or silicone gel

Differences Between Saline and Silicone Implants

When deciding which implant type to choose consider the following:

Implant Rippling

Breast implants used in women with little or no breast tissue may show rippling or wrinkling because there is little tissue between the implant and the skin. Since saline is less dense than silicone, rippling occurs more frequently with these implants after breast augmentation.

breast implant rippling Implant Rippling Occurs More Often In Saline Implants

Capsular Contracture

All implants when introduced into the body are surrounded by scar tissue. The scar tissue may thicken and tighten around the implant. This tightening is called a capsular contracture. Capsular contractures can cause breast distortion and pain. In studies released by the FDA, capsular contractures in silicone implants are approximately 20%. Capsular contractures in saline implants occur less often, about 9%.

breast implant capsular contractureCapsular contracture occurs more often in silicone breast implants

Implant Rupture

Over the life of the implant, the outer shell can lose integrity and the fill of the implant can leak. Ruptures of silicone implants occur in about 13% of women, while ruptures of saline implants occur in approximately 3% of women.

In saline implants, when a leak occurs the salt water is absorbed by the body. The implant deflates and is immediately noticeable.

Silicone implants use a cohesive gel that is not absorbed by the body. In many instances breast pain or breast deformity may occur; however, silent ruptures are most common. A silent rupture is when the implant ruptures but no signs or symptoms are noticeable. 35% of silicone implant ruptures are silent ruptures. Because of the risk of silent ruptures with silicone implants, the FDA recommends women with silicone implants get a screening MRI 3 years after breast implant surgery and every 2 years after that.

saline breast implant deflation Implant Deflation Can Be Easily Detected In Saline Implants


Mammograms can be safely performed in women with both saline and silicone breast implants. Because silicone gel is denser it obscures the mammogram image more than saline, thus in patients having breast augmentation with silicone implants, mammograms can be more difficult to interpret.

Options for breast augmentation also include

  • Implant Size
  • Implant Shape
  • Implant Placement (in front or behind the pectoralis muscle)
  • Incision Location

These should be thoroughly discussed between you and your surgeon before your breast augmentation surgery. The selection of each of these options will allow you to get the individualized size, shape and proportion you desire.

For a complimentary consultation call Galumbeck Plastic Surgery at 757.491.3204

About Dr. Matt Galumbeck

With over 20 years of clinical experience and having performed over 5,000 cosmetic surgery procedures, Dr. Matthew Galumbeck has the experience and skills to deliver outstanding cosmetic surgery outcomes.

A native of Virginia Beach, Matthew Galumbeck, MD received his undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary, and his medical degree from Duke University. He trained in general surgery at Case Western Reserve University, and in plastic surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Further study includes advanced training in body contouring in Paris.

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