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The History & Science Behind Breast Implants

With breast augmentation being one of the most popular cosmetic surgeries in the industry, we really do have to applaud scientific and technological advancement particularly when it comes to the history of breast implants.

Thanks to meticulous scientific research and hard work over literally the last century, there has never been a time when breast implants have been safer and better. Breast augmentation surgery techniques are so cutting-edge (thanks to rigorous studies and new methods developed by our very own team of surgeons) that they give breast augmentation patients the most beautiful and natural results ever.

And since we like to get a little nerdy sometimes, there’s no better time than the start of a brand new year to look back at how far we’ve come with a brief breast implant history lesson 😉

The Ghost of Breast Implants Past

If any of our readers enjoy trivia, then knowing who the first silicone breast implant patient was and when is a total treat. Mom of six, Timmie Jean Lindsey, was the first woman to have breast augmentation surgery performed with silicone breast implants in Houston, Texas in 1962. That’s 63 years ago!

When she was interviewed about her breast augmentation experience when she turned 80 (11 years ago) she was super positive about the entire experience and said that she was happy with her breasts to this day.

She didn’t sugar coat it, though. She explained that her breasts naturally aged with her over the 6 decades that followed her surgery, thanks in part to gravity and the overall weakening of muscle structure. This is something we always remind our patients (we all still age, no matter the surgery!), but she definitely loved how they improved her shape and overall self-confidence and was glad she made the decision.

The surgery was performed by surgeons Dr. Frank Gerow and Dr. Thomas Cronin, and it was actually Dr. Frank Gerow that invented the new type of silicone implant, which though much improved in modern times, is the model for the breast implants that we have today.

Dr. Frank Gerow came up with the silicone implant after squeezing a medical bag filled with liquid and noting how similar it felt to a woman’s breast, and searched for a substance that would have a similar feel that would keep its shape.

We’re pretty spoiled today with the high caliber implants we have now, but prior to 1962 there was a lot of trial and error with regards to what would ultimately make and successfully maintain a larger breast. In the 1950s in the US, doctors used sponge implants, which ultimately did not keep their shape, and earlier still, some women had experimented with other materials including goat’s milk, paraffin, or silicone injections 😬

So when Dr. Gerow came up with the medical grade silicone implant, although he wouldn’t know it right away, it truly was a revolutionary moment that would ultimately become the origin story behind the popularity of the breast augmentation surgery today.

Breast augmentation surgery would change women’s lives, not only for those who desired an improvement in their breasts’ shape but also for those women who required breast reconstruction surgery due to breast cancer resulting in mastectomies or women suffering from breast shape abnormalities.

The Breast Implants of Today

Today we have a new generation of truly incredible breast implants. The most widely used implants today are saline implants and cohesive gel silicone implants.

Saline implants are filled with saline which is a salt solution and is a substance that is similar to the fluids we already produce in our body. Although a rare occurrence, if the implant were to rupture it’s completely safe for our bodies to absorb the solution.

Cohesive gel implants, also known as “gummy bear” implants, are filled with a cohesive silicone gel. The reason they have this name is because the internal gel of the implant is similar in nature to a gummy bear. While it feels quite soft and pliable to the touch, it’s actually solid in nature—you can cut this silicone gel and it maintains its shape, unlike previous iterations of these implants that had a more viscous silicone filling.

 

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Why is this such a revolutionary advantage? In the rare event that the shell of the implant ruptures, the material within will not leak whatsoever. It safely maintains its form until it’s corrected by your surgeon. In fact, it’s so effective in this regard that it can even be difficult to detect a rupture. That’s why all of our patients have lifetime access to free high resolution ultrasound breast exams at our clinic so that we can clearly and easily determine if there is an issue with the integrity of the implant’s shell.

Both saline and cohesive gel implants have their pros and cons and which implant you ultimately choose really depends on your anatomy, the result that you’re looking to achieve and your surgeon’s best recommendations. The key thing to take away is that both types of implants are extremely safe and offer a beautiful, natural result and feel.

What has also impacted the beautiful results that can now be achieved with breast augmentation surgeries is also various techniques. We used to uniquely place the breast implant either under the muscle or over the muscle, but now we equally have the technique to place the breast implant subfascially or under the fascia.

The fascia is tissue that is wrapped around and protects the muscle, and placing the implant within the fascia, or between the fascia and the muscle, makes it the perfect protective pocket for the breast implant to live and also to maintain its position over time, offering an incredible natural result. There’s also less pain and less downtime.

 

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And last but not least, if for whatever reason the idea of a breast implant doesn’t appeal to you but you’re looking for moderate breast enhancement and augmentation, although it won’t give you as dramatic a change in size, the breast augmentation with fat transfer, where fat is harvested from one area of the body and re-injected into the breast, is also an excellent breast augmentation surgery option.

All this to say, the breast implant has definitely come a long long way from its early days, and is a pretty incredible, impressive, and extremely safe product today. And it can achieve a truly spectacular result.

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