An Overview of Types of Breast Implants

Breast reconstruction with implants may seem like one, sweeping decision, but surgical advances offer patients a series of nuanced choices within this type of reconstruction. One of those choices is what type of implant you wish to put in your body. In the United States, all breast implants have a silicone shell. However, beyond the shell material, implants vary by filler, texture, and shape. Each type of implant comes with its own specific benefits and risks.

Read on for some information that may help you work with your surgeon to determine which type best fits your reconstructive goals.

Breast implants can be filled with silicone or saline.

As the name suggests, silicone implants get their shape from a silicone gel filling. These implants are more dense than their saline counterparts. They also tend to produce fewer visible wrinkles (rippling) than saline implants. Both implant manufacturers and the FDA recommend a breast MRI to evaluate the implants three years after they are placed and every two years after that. This monitoring ensures that they are intact and that surgeons have the opportunity to take swift action should there be any leakage.

Saline implants are filled with saline, which is a sterile saltwater. They are less dense and more prone to rippling, however they do not require surveillance. Unlike silicone, which tends to stay in one place even if it has broken through the implant shell, saline is absorbed by the body. Saline absorption causes the implant to lose volume, which offers a visible indication that the implant is not intact.

The implant shell can be smooth or textured, however, smooth implants are much more commonly used.

Texturing on the implant shell helps to prevent the implants from moving. While it is optimal for implants to remain in one place, textured implants are not as common as smooth implants. This is due in part to their association with a specific type of low grade lymphoma called Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). Patients who currently have textured implants should speak to their plastic surgeons about their risk.

Round implants are the most common implant shape.

Implants can be round or shaped. Unfortunately, shaped implants must maintain a specific orientation based on their shape, which means that they are also textured and have thus fallen into disuse.

Factors like implant profile and placement are also vital to your reconstructive outcome.

Be sure to discuss what makes you feel comfortable in your body when you and your surgeon discuss implant profile and placement. An implant profile refers to how large it is (how much volume it holds), its projection forward, and its width at its base. While your stature will help your plastic surgeon make an initial of the most appropriate profile, your input should be part of the conversation. For example, your activity level may help them determine whether you should be reconstructed over-the-muscle or under-the-muscle. Get the information you need, and make sure that your voice is heard.