Anatomy of Breast Implants

Breast augmentation is among the top surgical procedures for women of all ages, but few women know what the main components of the actual implant are and how the procedure is performed. While a plastic surgeon that will be performing the procedure may provide a brief overview of the procedure and answer basic questions about the implants, there are some important details to learn about before proceeding with surgery.
Here’s a close look at the anatomy of the breast implant:

What are the Components of the Breast Implant?

Breast implants are made of three main components: the shell, the filler and the patch. The shell is either made with silicone or saline, and this outer layer may be slightly textured or smooth depending on the type of results you are looking for. The filler is inserted in the shell to create the right size. The filler is injected into the shell after insertion with saline implants, but is pre-filled within the implant itself with silicone implants. The patch is the small piece of material or compound that covers the whole where the filler has been inserted into the shell. Together, these three pieces form what we know as the entire breast implant.

What are Saline Implants Composed of?

Adjustable saline implants are filled with a sterile saline solution after the shell has been inserted under the breast tissue. However, some saline implants do come prefilled, so there is no option for adjusting them once they have been inserted. In this case, the implant is called a ‘single lumen’ shell and has a fixed volume.
A ‘single lumen filled’ implant is filled during surgery so that the surgeon can adjust the volume as needed. This type of implant may deliver more natural-looking results because it is customized to suit your body shape and size.

What are Silicone Implants Composed of?

Silicone implants have become increasingly popular after the FDA re-approved them for use in 2006. These implants are made with a thick silicone oil and large silicone compounds, and this composition often feels softer and more ‘natural’ than saline. There are several different types of this implant available.
A single lumen silicone implant is prefilled to a specific size with silicone gel. A double lumen silicone implant is partially pre-filled for insertion, and then the remainder is filled during surgery using a small valve. The double lumen silicone – outer implant is prefilled with a fixed volume on the outer level, and then the remainder is filled during the procedure to a custom size. The other type of silicone implant is a ‘shell-less’ implant that is much harder than the other types.

Are there Other Options for Breast Implants?

In addition to standard silicone and saline implants, some manufacturers create breast implants with a think silicone shell and synthetic fillers. These are often priced lower than conventional implants, but it is important to note that these have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Learn more about breast implants, their benefits and drawbacks in our breast augmentation guide, or consult with a plastic surgeon in your area to find out if which type of implant is the best fit for you.