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Types of Breast Implants

Breast augmentation model

Breast implants are available in a variety of sizes and projections for women with different body types and aesthetic objectives. This section will help you to explore your options, which include breast implant shape and texture, prior to consulting with a plastic surgeon. One of the most important choices you and your surgeon will make is the type of breast implants that are right for you.

Saline and Silicone Implants, Shapes and Textures

Three types of breast implants - smooth round, textured contour and post-operatively adjustable

This section contains a wealth of information about the different types of breast implants. If you decide to proceed with surgery, you will work closely with your surgeon and his or her staff to finalize your size choice and determine the style of breast implants that will enable you to meet your goals for breast augmentation.

Silicone Gel Filled Breast Implants

Silicone gel filled breast implants consist of a silicone elastomer (rubber) shell pre-filled with a cohesive, gelatin-like substance that holds together uniformly while still retaining the natural give of breast tissue. Silicone gel breast implants are available in a wide range of sizes to accommodate women with different body types and aesthetic goals. Projections from moderate to high provide you with choices for the amount of projection of the breast silhouette.

What is silicone?

Silicone is a chemical polymer made from silicon, the second-most abundant element in the earth's crust (oxygen is first). The sand at the beach is largely silicone.

Silicone polymers can be produced in a wide variety of forms (including liquids, gels and rubber) and are used for many different products (including adhesives, lubricants, suntan lotion, chewing gum and many more.)

Silicone polymers are also used in many medical devices approved by the FDA.

See Breast Implant Styles for detailed descriptions and specifications for the silicone gel breast implants made by Mentor, Allergan Natrelle and Sientra.

Silicone gel implants were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for cosmetic breast augmentation in November 2006. The move ended a 14-year moratorium during which silicone gel implants were available in the U.S. only for breast reconstruction, for women who already had these implants and needed a replacement for medical reasons and for use in ongoing clinical trials.

The 1992 ban was enacted because the FDA determined that not enough data was available to prove that the implants were safe. Since then, numerous studies have found no increased risk of breast cancer, connective tissue diseases, neurological diseases and other illnesses in women with breast implants. Studies involving thousands of women are ongoing to evaluate the safety and effective of silicone gel breast implants.

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Saline Filled Breast Implants

Breast implants bra model

Saline filled breast implants consist of a silicone elastomer (rubber) shell that is filled with a sterile saline solution at the time of surgery. Saline breast implants come in a wide range of sizes and are available with both moderate and high profiles (the amount of projection of the breast silhouette). Most women choose round implants, but contoured, or shaped, styles are also available and may be recommended for women with smaller breasts. Contoured implants are made with a textured surface designed to keep them from turning and losing their shape. A new style of round implant is Mentor's post-operatively adjustable implants, which can be adjusted in size up to 6 months after surgery.

See our section on breast implant styles for detailed descriptions and specifications for the saline breast implants made by Mentor Corp., Allergan, Inc. and Sientra, Inc.

Saline breast implants were introduced in 1965 and were formally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000. Ongoing studies involving thousands of women with saline breast implants continue to evaluate their safety and effectiveness.

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Breast Implant Shapes

Breast implants are available in two basic shapes: round and contoured. Contoured implants were originally designed to be used for breast reconstruction, but are now used for cosmetic breast augmentation as well. Contoured implants are shaped like a teardrop to simulate the natural shape of the breast and are made with a textured surface to help prevent movement or rotation. Round implants can also be used to create a very natural appearance, especially when placed under the muscle.

Mentor Breast Implant
Most round breast implants have a smooth surface, but a textured surface is also available.

Natrelle Breast Implant
Contoured breast implants have a textured surface.

See Breast Implant Styles for detailed descriptions and specifications for the breast implants, both round and contoured, made by Mentor, Allergan and Sientra.

Round Breast Implants

Round breast implants with a smooth surface are currently used for the majority of breast augmentations in the United States and Canada. These implants tend to create a fuller appearance in the upper portion of the breasts and more distinct cleavage when placed over the muscle (subglandular implant placement). When placed under the muscle (subpectoral and submuscular implant placements), round implants create a very natural shape.

Round breast implants come in a wide array of sizes to accommodate women with different body types. They are also available with a moderate or high profile, which is the amount of projection of the breast profile from back to front. Most round implants have a smooth surface because they can rotate after placement without causing any change in appearance or distorting the breast shape. However, they are available with a textured surface as well.

Contoured Breast Implants

Contoured breast implants are also known as "anatomicals" (anatomical breast implants) or "teardrops" (because more of the volume is distributed to the lower portion of the implant). They were designed to create a natural slope to the breast shape and are a good choice for women with smaller breasts.

Contoured breast implants are available in many different sizes and with a moderate or high profile. Since these implants have a defined top and bottom, they are made with a textured surface to prevent the implant from being displaced or turning, which can distort the shape of the breast.

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Breast Implant Textures

The shells of both saline and silicone gel breast implants are made of silicone elastomer (rubber), and the surface area is either smooth or textured. The main purpose of textured implants is to promote tissue adherence to the irregular surface and hold them into place. Therefore, a textured surface is used with contoured implants because they have a top and bottom, and rotation or movement distorts the breast shape. On the other hand, most round implants have a smooth surface because the breast shape is not affected if the implant rotates in the breast pocket.

Mentor Breast Implant
Smooth breast implants are round in shape.

Natrelle Breast Implant
Most textured breast implants are contoured, or "anatomical," in shape, but a round shape is also available.

See Breast Implant Styles for detailed descriptions and specifications for the breast implants, both smooth and textured, made by Mentor, Allergan and Sientra

Smooth Breast Implants

Smooth, round breast implants are currently used for most breast augmentations in the United States and Canada. Many women feel that smooth implants have a more natural feel and appearance than textured implants.

Smooth breast implants are round in shape, come in many sizes and are available with different profiles, which is the amount of projection of the breast silhouette from the chest. The shells of smooth breast implants are slightly thinner than textured implants. Smooth implants are less likely to cause rippling of the implant shell and are less likely to rupture.

Textured Breast Implants

Textured breast implants have an irregular surface that is intended to hold the implant in place. The scar tissue that naturally forms around the implant conforms to the textured surface and "grabs" the implant to prevent it from being displaced or turning in the pocket, which could result in distortion of the breast shape. A textured surface is used with contoured implants to prevent movement because the teardrop shape is distorted if any rotation occurs.

Textured implants were designed to lessen the risk of capsular contracture, which is an excessive contraction of the scar capsule that surrounds the implant, by preventing scar tissue from forming around the implant in a uniform manner. However, studies have proven inconclusive and no firm evidence exists to support the theory that textured implants reduce the risk of capsular contracture. If a patient requires implant removal due to capsular contracture or another complication, it may be more difficult for the surgeon to remove the implant because of the adherence of tissue to the textured surface.

The shells of textured breast implants are slightly thicker than smooth implants. Textured implants are more firm and carry an increased risk of rippling that is visible or can be felt through the skin, especially for women with smaller breasts. There is also a small increase in the chance that the implant shell will rupture.

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Post-operatively Adjustable Saline Breast Implants

Mentor Breast Implant
The size of Mentor's Spectrum® Breast Implants can be adjusted up to 6 months after surgery.

See Breast Implant Styles for detailed descriptions and specifications for Mentor Spectrum® post-operatively adjustable breast implants.

Mentor's Spectrum® post-operatively adjustable saline breast implants allow the physician to adjust the size of the breast implant for up to 6 months after breast augmentation surgery. One of the more difficult decisions you'll face in breast augmentation is deciding what size breast implant best fits your body. The Spectrum® implants give you and your surgeon more flexibility over the end result of your breast enlargement procedure.

A small, removable fill tube is left temporarily attached to the breast implant after surgery. The tube is accessible to the physician by injection through the skin. In a simple office procedure, breast implant size can be varied by adding or removing saline until you have achieved the result you desire. At this point, the fill tube is removed (again, in a routine office visit) and a self-sealing valve immediately closes and seals the breast implant.

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You will discuss the different options that are available in breast implants at Your Breast Augmentation Consultation with a plastic surgeon. If you haven't decided upon a target size, the consultation can be educational as you learn about the options that are available for you.

For more about the sizing process, see Choosing Your New Size.

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