A saline breast implant is a medical device made up of a shell of silicone elastomer and filled with salt water or saline. Saline is very similar to the fluid that occurs naturally in the body. A saline breast implant has a special tube that allows the doctor to fill the implant at the time of surgery. There are several types of saline implants. Dr. Burgess will guide you in the decision-making process when selecting the implant that will best suit your frame and breast contours.
Saline implants have been used for decades and have a good safety profile. Keep in mind that implants of any kind are not forever devices. Although the leak rate is low, no one knows exactly how long your implants may last. If your implant does leak, you may require a short day surgery to remove the implant and replace it in the future.
The second type of implant commonly used for breast reconstruction is a silicone gel breast implant. Silicone is a polymer, used in many household products, such as hand lotion and soaps. The outer shell of the silicone implant is the same as the saline implant, but instead of being filled with salt water, it instead contains a silicone gel. The silicone implant has a multi-layered barrier that helps prevent rupture. Some people think that the silicone implant feels more natural as compared to the saline implant.
Extensive studies have been completed with regard to the safety of silicone and saline implants. Both implants are FDA approved and have been involved in clinical studies encompassing thousands of women since 1992. Please visit mentorcorp.com to get specific details on these studies.
When choosing what type of implant to have, you should consider the pros and cons of both. If you were to develop a leak the implant would simply go flat over hours to days if you have a saline implant. The breast would look smaller and the salt water or saline from your implant would be absorbed by your body. When a silicone implant ruptures, it can be known as a 'silent leak', because the silicone gel may leak over time. The most accurate way to detect a silicone leak is by a breast MRI. Therefore the current recommendation is to get a breast MRI 3 years after implant surgery and then every 2 years. This should be done even if you are not experiencing any problems. If a leak were detected in either type of implant, the goal would be to remove and replace the implant. This is usually a day surgery and patients normally recover very quickly, as the pocket for their implant has already been created.
It is not unknown how long your implants will last. Some silicone or saline implants may last decades, while others may rupture earlier. In most cases, if you are on the younger side when you have your reconstruction process, (25-50 years of age), you will most likely need to have your implants replaced at sometime in your life.
Deciding which implant fulfills your reconstructive goals and suits your lifestyle is a very personal decision. Dr. Burgess normally allows for patients to pick which type of implant they prefer. This is not a decision that has to be made right away. Your permanent implant will not be placed until several months after your tissue expander placement surgery. Therefore you do have time to decide which implant, silicone or saline, would work best for you.
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Note about these procedures: When patients come in for a new patient consult, Dr. Burgess will review the various procedures she performs as well as discuss the other options available to patients. She will help guide you towards the reconstructive surgery that most compliments your aesthetic goals, as well as maintain close communication with your other physicians.