How Safe Are Breast Implants

There are two main reasons why women consider getting breast implants. First, for reconstruction after surgery and second, for breast enlargement. But before deciding on getting implants, it is best to be well informed regarding the procedure, the risks and breast implant safety.

Types of Breast Implants

There are generally two types of breast implants: saline and silicone.


saline implants are made of a silicone outer shell filled with saline or sterile saltwater.


silicone implants, on the other hand, are also made of a silicone outer shell, but with filled silicone gel.

Both types are approved by the FDA to be manufactured by two companies: Mentor and Allergen.

Currently, there are still ongoing studies regarding breast implants. Other implants have yet to be approved by the FDA and are only available to women who choose to enroll in a clinical trial.

Story behind silicone implants

Silicone breast implants were first introduced in 1962. The subject of breast implants has always been controversial. During that time, the FDA did not evaluate medical device for safety.

In the 1980s, the popularity of breast implants soared. But so did cases of their supposed health risks. People claimed that there was a connection between the silicone gel (from ruptured implants) and an increased chance of having immunological disorders including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and other conditions.

Women who claimed to have had symptoms of a certain condition, reported that those symptoms disappeared after they having their implants removed. But there were some who filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers.

Though there were no studies confirm the link between and said disorders, the FDA looked into the issue and, in 1992, restricted the use of silicone breast implants to women who need to have breast reconstruction. For women who wanted to get breast augmentation, they had to use saline breast implants. This restriction on the use of silicone implants went on for 14 years.

In 2006, the FDA lifted their restriction on silicone implants. This is due to the lack of evidence supporting the connection of silicone implants and various immunological disorders. After conducting numerous studies in the 14-year restriction, silicone implants were declared safe and effective. But for good measure, the FDA required the 2 implant manufacturers to continue conducting studies on breast implant safety in the next 10 years to see their long-term effects.

Silicone implants vs. saline implants

Research reports that there are no important differences in salin and silicon implants safety. Both types have their pros and cons.


They may be caused by surgical errors, a fall, or even pressure exerted on the breast during a mammogram. Though ruptures are a risk with either type of breast implant, their implications are different.

Saline implant ruptures are easier to spot. The breast quickly changes shape in a matter of days as the fluid leaks out. If a salt implant bursts, it is only saltwater that leaks out and it is harmlessly absorbed into the body.

Silicone implant ruptures are harder to notice. When a silicone implant breaks, the silicone stays in the body. Silicone has been known to spread outside of the breasts, even reaching outlying lymph nodes. That may sound scary but up to now there is no evidence that this could lead to an increased risk of a disease. Still, in case of a silicone implant rupture, your doctor may recommend removing the implant and any loose silicone.

Aesthetic result

More women and plastic surgeons prefer silicone implants over saline implants for their loof and feel. Silicone breast implants are considered to be more like real human breast tissue. On the other hand, saline implants are more inclined to cause rippling of the skin.


Silicone breast implants contain platinum, while saline implants contain nothing but sterile salt water. While for some people, having platinum inside their body could eb harmful, the FDA says studies have not found platinum in silicone breast implants pose any risk.

Surgical differences

Saline implants are filled after they have been implanted. Meaning they need smaller incision compared to pre-filled silicone implants. Plus, several saline implants can be adjusted after surgery. Your doctor only has to use a syringe to put in or take out more water. On the other hand, a standard sized silicon implant cannot be changed.


There are some differences as to who can get the two types of implants. For reconstruction after surgery, women can get either type at any age. For breast augmentation, saline implants are approved for women aged 18 and older.

For silicone implants, only women aged 22 and older can get them. The FDA explains the four-year difference that "the risks are different for the two products," and specifically relates the issues surrounding the removal of ruptured silicone breast implants.

Though studies have found no evidence supporting breast implants’ connection with serious diseases, there are still risks, and above all, long-term implications to consider.

Need for further surgeries

Breast implants, in time, wear out. While there is no definitive answer as to how long breast implants last, the rule of thumb is the older the implant, the higher the risk of rupture. The FDA pinpoints an implant’s life span to about 10 years. Studies have shown that some implants last longer than that, while some live fairly shorter lives.

Another problem that requires surgery. Over time, breast implants can change shape. Sometimes, the tissue around the implant – a condition called capsular contracture. The only way to fix capsular contracture is to have surgery.

If you want maintain your (implant) breast size and shape for the rest of your life, you should be prepared for several additional surgeries. The follow-up surgeries may not be as involved as the first one, but the risk of complications is higher.


Breast implants may permanently alter breast tissue. Once you get breast implants then you decide to have them removed, you breasts may not return to their pre-surgery shape. They may also remain wrinkled or dimpled.

Changes in appearance and sensation

Breast implants can cause a loss of sensation in the breast and nipple. They may even cause pain. Also, implants can result in excessive scarring and wrinkling.

Associated health problems

Studies on breast implants found connections between breast implants and certain health conditions. What is disturbing is that several studies found increased risk of alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide in women with breast implants.

Experts suggest, however, that breast implants are not the cause of these problems. They suspect that a minority of women who get breast implants may also have underlying psychological problems that can lead to suicide and/or substance abuse.

Surgical complications

As with other surgery, breast implant surgery poses risks. Some women may have surgical infections, bleeding and swelling.

Other issues

Studies also suggest that breast implants can make breast feeding difficult, if not altogether impossible. Implants may stop a woman from producing milk. Plus, implants also make for inaccurate mammograms results as they interfere
with the image of a tumor.