Types of Breast Implants

Before you undergo surgery, your plastic surgeon will present you with a variety of suitable breast implants that may differ in type, shape, style, and size.

Saline vs. Silicone Breast Implants

Saline Breast Implants

Saline-filled breast implants are filled with sterile salt water. They may be prefilled to a predetermined size, or they may be filled at the time of surgery to allow for minor modifications in implant size.

Silicone Breast Implants

Silicone-filled breast implants are filled with soft, elastic gel and can come in a variety of shapes. All silicone breast implants are prefilled and may require a longer incision for implant placement.

Highly Cohesive Gel Breast Implants

Also known as “gummy bear” or “form stable” implants, are filled with a highly cohesive gel, made of crosslinked molecules of silicone, which makes the gel a bit thicker and firmer than traditional silicone implants and enables the implant to maintain its shape. Typically, these implants are inserted through an inframammary incision, just under the breast.

Fat Transfer

Fat transfer takes fat out of an area of your body where there are abundant fat cells (thighs, abdomen, and hip) by liposuction, and then, through a process of careful preparation and refinement, the fat cells are injected into the breast. Breast enlargement using fat transfer can be performed either alone or with breast implants. Your plastic surgeon can tell you more about its benefits and limitations.

What Are the Safest Type of Breast Implants?

All FDA-approved breast implants are safe. The decision on the type of breast implant you choose shouldn’t be focused on the assumed ‘safest’ choice. Instead, you should choose a breast implant based on the best match for your goals and body type.

Dr. Gregory L. Combs is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgeons and a member in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons as well as the prestigious American Society for Aesthetic Plastic. He believes patients should be confident in the safety of the implants they choose. Contrary to urban myths, breast implants are not associated with causing autoimmune conditions, breast cancer, or other illnesses.

While studies have not found evidence that breast implants, either silicone gel or saline, are connected with serious disease, there are still risks. There are also long-term implications. Here are some of the breast implant safety issues that you need to consider.

According to the current research, there aren’t significant differences in the safety of silicone gel and saline implants. But each type of breast implant has its pros and cons.


Ruptures are a risk with either kind of breast implant. Ruptures might be caused by surgical error, a fall, or — very rarely — the pressure exerted on the breast during a mammogram. But the implications of a rupture are a little different for the two types.

Saline implant ruptures are easy to spot. The breast rapidly changes shape over days as the fluid leaks out. If a saline implant breaks, all that leaks out is saltwater. The saltwater is harmlessly absorbed into the body.

Silicone gel implant ruptures are more difficult to notice. When the implant breaks, the leaking silicone stays in the body. It can sometimes spread outside the breast and into distant lymph nodes. As unnerving as that sounds, studies haven’t found that this results in any increased risk of disease. Nonetheless, if a silicone gel implant ruptures, your doctor will probably recommend removing it and any loose silicone.

Ruptures of silicone gel breast implants are often “silent,” meaning patients and doctors may not notice them. They can only be detected by MRI. For this reason, the FDA recommends that women with silicone gel implants get an MRI three years after implantation and once every two years after that. MRIs may not be covered by your insurance. Over the course of a woman’s life, these MRIs may cost more than the original implant surgery.

Aesthetic Results

Many women and plastic surgeons prefer the look and feel of silicone breast implants. Silicone breast implants are generally considered to be more like real breast tissue. Saline implants are more prone to causing rippling of the skin.


Silicone gel breast implants contain platinum; saline implants don’t. While some people feel that platinum could be harmful, the FDA says that studies have not found that it poses any risk in breast implants.

Surgical Differences

Saline implants are filled after they’re implanted, so saline implants require a smaller incision than pre-filled silicone gel breast implants. Also, many saline implants can be adjusted after surgery. Months later, a woman could decide to increase or decrease the size of her saline implants without surgery. The doctor can just use a syringe to put in more liquid or take it out. The size of standard prefilled silicone gel implants cannot be changed.

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