Patients may choose an implant over natural tissue reconstruction if they don’t want to use their own tissue in breast reconstruction, don’t want a longer hospital stay up front or don’t want additional scarring on other areas of their body.
If you select this route, your MUSC plastic surgeon will work with you to determine the type, style and size of implant that is best suited for you and your body type.
Placing an implant typically takes 30 minutes for each breast, whether done at the time of mastectomy or delayed. If performed later, it is an outpatient procedure.
There are two types of breast implants – silicone and saline (salt water). Saline implants do not sit like normal breasts and tend to have a rippling effect. Someone who undergoes a cosmetic breast augmentation has natural breast tissue that will cover saline implants and mask those problems. In contrast, breast cancer patients have little to no natural breast tissue to cover an implant following a mastectomy, so rippling is often evident with a saline implant. Patients can expect better cosmetic results with silicone gel implants, which hang more naturally and are more cohesive with less chance of rippling.
While silicone breast implants were taken off the market as a result of safety concerns brought to the forefront by journalist Connie Chung, the Food and Drug Administration ultimately concluded that silicone implants do not increase the incidence of disease and in 2006 allowed them to be used again. In fact, silicone is in most types of medical implants, including pacemakers and knee replacements.
As a result of Chung, the silicone breast implant is the most researched medical device in the world. It’s true that breast implants – saline or silicone – will rupture eventually, which is a valid reason to consider natural tissue reconstruction, but there is little likelihood of harm to the patient.
Because today’s silicone implants are made of a cohesive gel, the inner material does not “leak” and the capsule of scar tissue around the implant keeps it secure. (If you cut an implant in half, it is like a jellybean. The inner material does not go anywhere.) Most people don’t notice that their silicone implant has ruptured. This usually has to be determined by an MRI. But when a saline implant ruptures, the saline leaks out and the implant goes noticeably flat.
The average lifespan of an implant is 13.5 years. Replacing implants typically takes half an hour per breast and is an outpatient procedure.