At one time, saline implants were all that was available to women seeking breast enhancement surgery. For some, they’re still more preferred than silicone implants. However, both kinds of implants come with their benefits and disadvantages. Choosing the right implant type for you is a decision that should be made with your plastic surgeon after discussing your unique anatomy, aesthetic goals and personal preferences.
Both silicone and saline implants feature a silicone-based outer shell that contains a filler. For saline implants, the filler is composed of a salt water solution, and silicone implants, as their name suggests, are filled with silicone gel.
Saline vs. Silicone
Both types of implants are available in a range of shapes, profiles and sizes. Saline implants can be inserted subglandularly (over the chest wall muscles), partially submuscularly (partly beneath the chest wall muscles) or fully submuscularly (fully beneath the chest wall muscles).
With saline implants, the options for incision sites are also less limited. This is because they’re filled with saline after being inserted. Therefore, the incisions can be made underneath the breast folds, around the nipples, in the belly button or in the armpits, which ensures minimal visibility of scars. Also, the incisions made for saline implants tend to be smaller.
Silicone implants, on the other hand, come pre-filled and are more difficult to insert. For this reason, the incisions are larger, and their sites are more limited. Silicone implants cannot be inserted through the belly button or nipples.
Unlike silicone implants, saline ones can be adjusted. To achieve this, your surgeon simply uses a syringe to insert more saline. Another major difference between saline and silicone breast implants is the ease of telling if one has ruptured. If saline implants leak or rupture, they deflate almost immediately. The harmless saline is then absorbed by your body and excreted through the urinary tract.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell if a silicone implant has ruptured or leaked. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urges women with these implants to have an MRI three years following their implant surgery, and once every two years afterward, to see if ruptures have developed. If either type of implant becomes damaged, they must be removed.
Perhaps the only downfall of saline implants is that they don’t tend to feel or look as natural as silicone implants do. Indeed, some women report that their saline implants make their breasts feel like a water balloon. Fortunately, this can often be prevented by placing saline breast implants beneath the muscles of the chest wall and overfilling them slightly. It’s important to talk with your plastic surgeon about this issue if you’re thinking of choosing saline breast implants.
Furthermore, saline breast implants are also more likely to produce wrinkling or rippling than their gel-filled silicone counterparts. This is especially true for women with thin skin and a lack of breast tissue. The effects are caused by the saline interacting with the implant’s silicone shell during movement.