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Breast Implants: Comparing Saline Vs. Silicone

Making the choice to get breast implants is a major decision. It is a choice to enhance your look. It is a choice to improve the way your look makes you feel. It is a choice to make your self-image, and your body, look more like how you want it to. Still, even if you have gotten that far, there’s another choice that still needs to be made: saline or silicone?

There are differences between the two materials, and just like the choice to get implants in the first place, choosing between the two is a major decision. A look at each material and how it might affect which type of implant is best for you.

  • Saline: A saline implant is comprised of a silicone shell filled with sterile salt water (saline). They are inserted while empty, and filled after they are in place.
  • Silicone: A silicone implant has a similar shell that is filled with a special silicone gel. These implants are pre-filled and inserted that way.

While there are plenty of similarities between the two, the differences don’t end with the material that fills the silicone shell. The risks, while minimal for both, vary little. They include scar tissue that could distort the shape of the breast, breast pain, infection, changes (usually temporary) in nipple and breast sensation, and implant leakage or rupture. Should a rupture of the implant occur, a saline implant will deflate, causing the affected breast to change in appearance. The saline would be safely absorbed by your body, however, and there is no associated health risk. Surgery would be needed to remove the ruptured shell and a new one, if desired, could be inserted at the same time.

In the event of a silicone implant rupturing, it’s possible the patient would never even notice. Any free silicone tends to remain trapped inside the tissue that forms around the implant – also known as a “silent rupture.” Even if the leaking silicone gel gets past the tissue around the implant, it isn’t thought to cause any long-term health problems. Breast pain or shape change is possible, and if that should happen your surgeon should be able to surgically remove the implant, with the option to replace it with a new one at the same time.

As for feel, silicone implants are widely accepted as the more “real breast” feel to the touch. Certainly, that’s an important component to many when choosing between the two types of implants. On the other hand, saline offers something silicone does not: adjustability. The silicone implants have a set fill volume, while the saline implants have a flexible fill volume, allowing your surgeon to adjust it during the procedure if that’s desired.

There are differences, too, in the way in which each type of implant is inserted. Silicone implants typically require slightly larger incisions, while saline implants can be inserted through a smaller opening, and through the belly button approach if desired. At GLOW, we typically place all implants, saline or silicone, under the muscle, and often approach from the lower fold or the nipple area.

One final thing to consider: breast augmentation using saline implants should cost less than breast augmenation using silicone implants, all things being equal. Saline implants are less expensive to purchase, and this difference should be passed on to you, the patient.

Saline or silicone? The choice is yours. If you already know which one you want, one of the cosmetic surgeons at GLOW's surgical practice in Redwood City will be happy to walk you through the entire process during a no-charge consultation. If you are still trying to make up your mind, the consultation can be used to help you determine which kind of implant you prefer. In the end, it’s your body, and your implants. We are just here to make sure you’re happy with the outcome!

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