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Issue Date: May 2006 Issue


Ask the Plastic Surgeon

Question: I have been considering having breast enlargement surgery and recently saw a news report that silicone implants may soon get FDA approval for use again. Are silicone implants safer now than in the ’90s when they were banned and are they better than saline?
Question: I have been considering having breast enlargement surgery and recently saw a news report that silicone implants may soon get FDA approval for use again. Are silicone implants safer now than in the ’90s when they were banned and are they better than saline?
Answer: The reality is that silicone gel implants were never the threat to women’s health that the media and some attorneys portrayed them to be. Although they were partially banned in the 1990s, plastic surgeons were still authorized to use them for reconstructive purposes such as reconstruction after mastectomy, or if a breast lift (mastopexy) was performed. Silicone gel implants were banned for breast enlargement surgery only.

The initial concern was the thickness (viscosity) of the silicone gel inside the implant. The older implants, if they broke, would be runny and leak. The new implants are more cohesive and will stay together even if they rupture. Many large studies by reputable institutions and endorsed by major medical colleges have confirmed the safety of silicone gel implants. The FDA studies by the manufacturers of silicone gel implants have also confirmed the safety of the implants. The pending FDA approval would permit the use of the silicone gel implants in breast augmentation (enlargement) once again. However, this approval could be months or years away. Whether to use silicone gel implants or saline implants is truly a matter of personal preference and is often dependent on a woman’s physical structure. Saline implants may offer a more natural appearance in some instances whereas silicone gel may be better on other occasions. Both silicone and saline implants are manufactured by the same companies and therefore considered equally safe. When the approval of silicone gel implants for enlargement does take place, a discussion of which would be appropriate for you should take place with your surgeon. Be certain that your surgeon has had significant experience using both types of implants and is Board Certified in Plastic Surgery.
 
Submit your questions to “Ask the Plastic Surgeon” at allnewu@AOL.com. Questions may be condensed and reformatted for the column.
 
Questions are answered by Dr. Mark A. Foglietti, a nationally recognized board-certified plastic surgeon and author.

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