Saline or Silicone: Which One is Safe?

By May 11, 2018Uncategorized

Submitted by Twin City Plastic Surgery

Believe it or not, breast implants aren’t a modern development in the field of breast reconstruction.

In 1895, German surgeon Vincenz Czerny, the father of cosmetic breast surgery, first used a breast implant to reconstruct a woman’s breast after removing a tumor.  That first implant was comprised of excess tissue taken from the woman’s own body. Through the years, surgeons and medical researchers continued experimenting with different substances to fill breast implants, most of which proved – unfortunately – not to be safe for the patient.

The medical community developed “modern” breast implants in the early 1960s, which was welcome news for women needing breast reconstruction. Modern implants are constructed of a silicone form shaped like a breast and filled with either saline (biological-concentration salt water) or silicone (a viscous synthetic gel polymer).

Since that time, medical research and media reports have continued to cast doubt and shed new light on breast implants. Most of the controversy focused on the safety of silicone implants. Many women still remember the coverage of the 1992 decision by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop manufacturers from selling silicone implants due to safety concerns. However, in 2006, the FDA began allowing the sale of certain types of silicone implants as continued research didn’t support the prior concerns. Today, both kinds of implants remain on the market and are considered safe.

Dr. Laura Randolph is a board-certified plastic surgeon that works with women every day who use breast implants to restore their bodies after cancer. Thirty-six percent of women with early stage (I or II) and 60 percent of women with late stage (III or IV) breast cancer have a mastectomy, a surgical removal of the breast, as a part of their cancer treatment. Of these women, 20 to 40 percent of women also have breast reconstruction.

Patients benefit greatly from having their plastic surgeon as a part of their healthcare team as soon after diagnosis as possible. Medical procedures are unique to each patient, including mastectomies and reconstruction. Plastic surgeons work with reconstruction of the breast which sometimes can be started during the initial mastectomy surgery. Other times, it’s best for the patient to have their reconstruction as a separate procedure. Plastic surgeons who handle the actual placement of the implant can work with patients in advance to discuss the advantages and challenges of immediate and delayed reconstruction.

One of the many decisions plastic surgeons help patients with is determining which implant type is best for her needs. Here’s a few things to consider:


Type Which is … Pro Con
Saline Sterile salt water Leakage, if it occurs, is safely absorbed by the body. If a rupture happens to occur, the patient will see a noticable change in their breast structure.
Silicon Plastic gel Many women say they feel more like natural breasts. Also, if a rupture happens to occur, the patient may not see an immediate change in their breast. However, the plastic gel will to leak within the patient and possibly cause medical complications which may be difficult to detect. MRIs are recommended every few years to check for “silent rupture.”


There are some things patients with implants should know, regardless of the type of implant used:

  • Implants aren’t designed to last forever. Over time, the size and shape of your breast may change requiring the implants be replaced. And, of course, there is potential for other medical issues to develop which may require the implant be replaced.
  • Mammogram recommendations are different for women with implants. In general, women who have had a mastectomy for breast cancer followed by reconstruction with implants do not need to have regular mammograms. However, there are exceptions to this. Each patient needs to work with their doctor to determine what type of monitoring is needed.

Give Dr. Laura Randolph a call at (309) 664-6222 to set up a consultation or discuss your options further.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.