You, Only 'Better'
Whether your objective is cosmetic or reconstructive, here's what you need to know about breast implants to help you make the choices that are right for you and your body.

Types of Breast Implants

There are three basic implant types. Each has a silicone shell. Saline implants are filled with sterile salt water. Silicone implants are filled with a plastic gel. Cohesive gel implants (a.k.a. "gummy bear") have the same ingredients as silicone implants but the gel is thicker--the consistency of a gummy bear.

Pros and Cons

Silicone-filled implants feel more like real breasts than saline-filled implants but run the risks of silent rupture (one that goes unnoticed) and silicone gel migration. Silicone also poses a greater health risk than saline if the implant leaks (saline is safely absorbed by the body). Silicone implants require regular MRI monitoring to check for silent ruptures but saline implants are obvious when they rupture because the implant deflates. Gummy bear implants hold their shape the longest, have less folding and rippling than saline-filled and traditional silicone-filled implants, and they don't leak if ruptured.

Implant complications for all three types include hardening around the implant, breast pain, changes in nipple and breast sensation, scarring, bleeding and infection, and they make mammogram screenings for breast cancer and breast feeding more difficult.

No breast implant lasts forever and additional surgeries for ruptures or unacceptable cosmetic outcomes (such as asymmetry, unsatisfactory style/size and puckering/wrinkling/rippling) are not unusual. The more implant surgery you have, the greater your risk of complications.

Surgery: What to Expect

While you're under general anesthesia your surgeon will make an incision under your breast or arm, around your nipple or through your belly button, depending on your body and the type and size of the implant. The implant will go either above or below your chest muscle. The procedure takes 1 to 2 hours.

After surgery your breasts will be covered with gauze. You may have drainage tubes that will be removed in a few days. You'll avoid activities like heavy lifting for up to 6 weeks and you may need prescription or over-the-counter pain medication. The swelling and scars will diminish over time.

For more information about breast implants, visit the Federal Drug Administration's website, and talk to your plastic surgeon about the different options, the surgical procedure, recovery process, and the benefits and risks involved.