Q&A: What is the difference between saline and silicone breast implants?

Ask A Doctor Question: 

What is the difference between saline and silicone breast implants? Is there a preferred method of the breast surgery for minimal scarring?  I have also heard about natural breast enhancement, what is that? Thank you! 

- Debra


Glenn Lyle, M.D. -

Saline implants are made of a type of silicone shell filled with saline . They can be placed via a somewhat smaller incision and have the advantage of early detection of a leak. Although uncommon, if a saline leaks it simply deflates. It has the disadvantage of feeling a bit less natural especially in very thin patients and is most frequently placed under the muscle.
Silicone gel implants require a slightly longer incision and are harder to detect a leak. An MRI may be required to discover a leak. They do feel more like a woman's breast however.
A "natural " breast augmentation involves placement of one's own fat into the breast. Advantages include- a more natural breast in the sense that no foreign material is placed. It requires aggressive liposuction to harvest enough fat to add to the breast and is limited in terms of how much enhancement you actually get. Some of the fat can resorb resulting in a shrinkage in breast size after the initial insertion.
In terms of scarring, most breast augmentation leave very small fine line scars that are hidden in folds and usually are not too noticeable.

--Glenn Lyle, M.D.
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