What is the Difference Between Silicone and Saline Implants?

Dr. Scott Schell answers the question: 'Difference between silicone and saline?'

ByScott Schell, M.D., Director, Comprehensive Breast Care, Beaumont Hospitals

— -- Question: What is the difference between silicone and saline implants?

Answer: Today, the Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of two types of implants for breast reconstruction following mastectomy. 'Saline' implants consist of a synthetic material filled with a saltwater solution, which is placed under the skin -- or more frequently, under the chest wall muscle -- in order to create the shape and the form of a natural breast.

Until 1992, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of silicone gel implants, which used the same synthetic material, but used a denser, more natural-feeling silicone gel instead of the saltwater solution. In 1992, because of concerns about other diseases perhaps caused by the silicone material, the Food and Drug Administration stopped the use of these silicone implants in patients who were undergoing breast enlargement procedures.

However, continuously since that time, these breast implants have been available for use by our breast cancer patients. And today, after extensive clinical trials beginning in 2005, silicone implants have been judged to be safe for all breast surgery patients, and are routinely used, and are preferred for reconstruction today.

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