Saline Breast Implants

The saline in saline breast implants refers to the filler material. The implant envelope itself is made of a silicone elastomer that is inserted empty into the chest and inflated to the desired size with sterile saline by the surgeon during the procedure.

Saline breast implants come in several sizes with both smooth and textured shells, they can be round or tear-drop shaped (known as anatomical), and theres a choice of low, medium, or high profiles (how far from the chest wall the implant will project). The shell has a single valve on the front surface of the implant. There are two types of saline implants. One is a fixed volume implant, which is filled completely at implantation and sealed shut. The other is an adjustable volume implant, which is also filled during the surgery but can be adjusted postoperatively. Filling is done via a syringe and tubing, similar to the way saline is dripped into the body through an intravenous (IV) line.

Being able to fill the implants at the time of surgery is one of the advantages saline implants have over silicone implants. Because the implants are inserted empty, a smaller incision is needed than with silicone implants. Additionally, saline implants come in different sizes, expressed in cubic centimeters (cc), which indicate the manufacturers recommended fill level, or the amount of saline they should contain. However, overfilling saline implants by a small amount is very common to get the right amount of breast augmentation. For example, an implant that is labeled 320 cc can be filled to 335 cc or 340 cc to balance out breasts that are sized slightly differently or to prevent the rippling, wrinkling, or gurgling of the implant that occurs when its under filled.

Expandable saline breast implants come in several sizes, just like standard saline implants, and their size can be changed for up to 6 months after surgery. The idea behind expandable is that the patient has a general idea of what size she would like so a compatible implant size and profile can be chosen. The surgeon inserts the implants either above or below the muscles and fills them almost full. Over the next few weeks or months, the patient returns to the surgeons office to have additional saline injected into the implants, usually in 50 cc increments. The intervals between visits give the body time to adjust to the implants and the skin time to stretch to accommodate them. Once the desired size is reached, the filler port is removed and the implants are sealed shut.

Saline breast implants were available before the ban on silicone breast implants by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and they became the most popular choice during the 14 years that silicone implants were unavailable in the United States. Compared to silicone implants, saline implants are more prone to creating cosmetic problems like rippling and wrinkling. Many women also feel they are not as natural looking or feeling as silicone implants. They are often used successfully in women with more breast tissue who choose a sub muscular implant (unders). While saline implants may not replicate the look and feel of a breast as well as silicone implants can, many women choose them because of lingering safety concerns over the use of silicone inside the body.

Breast implants made in the United States come from one of two companies, Allergan (Inamed) or Mentor. Both companies provide warranties to cover problems that may arise from a failure of the implant. Patients are given a device card following their surgery that includes a description of the implants, the serial numbers and lot number. This card should be kept in a safe place. The manufacturer also receives from the surgeon identifying stickers for the implants as well as information about the patients surgery and her Social Security number. This way, if there is ever a problem with the implants, the manufacturer can contact the surgeon who performed the surgery and the patient who received the implants.

Women must be at least 18 years old to undergo cosmetic breast augmentation with saline implants, except in cases of reconstruction. Cosmetic breast augmentation is not recommended for women under the age of 18 because their breasts are still developing and they may not have the maturity to make an informed decision about the procedure.

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