On November 25, 2008 this space discussed the early history of breast augmentation and ended where doctors were experimenting in the 1950s with ivory balls, wool, and ox cartilage. Part 2 will bring things up to date.

Silicone Gel

In 1961, two Houston surgeons developed the first silicone gel implants, marketed by Dow Corning. They used silicone rubber shells and over the next thirty years, made successively improved models with thicker gel and thinner shells.

Saline Implants

Meanwhile a French doctor developed inflatable saline implants in 1965, also with a silicone rubber shell. But too often the shell broke, deflating the implants, and in any case people thought that silicone gel felt more natural than liquid-filled implants.

Fourteen Years of FDA Restriction

In the 1980s, implants were given a polyurethane foam coating in hopes that this would prevent capsular contracture. About 1990 it was found that this foam could break down in the body, forming a carcinogen, and this type of implant was abandoned.

But the media had a field day with some women who claimed that silicone itself could cause cancer and autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. In 1992 the FDA was pressured by this negative coverage into declaring a moratorium and restricting silicone gel implants to reconstructive use only. Cosmetic augmentation was done only with saline implants. A class action lawsuit brought by lawyers for 170,000 women bankrupted Dow Corning by requiring that company to pay $3.2 billion in compensation.

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (the medical arm of the National Academy of Sciences) issued a 400-page report which concluded that silicone implants do not cause any major illnesses. At worst they might rupture and leak, causing infection and hardening of breast tissue.

In 2001, a new idea was tried that involved a bra-like device fitted over the breasts. Air was sucked out, creating a vacuum that was said to stimulate growth of breast tissue by about one cup size. A woman had to wear these for ten hours each day for several months. Another idea was developed in 2001 which had a better future: silicone cohesive gel implants.

FDA Re-Approval

In 2006 the FDA approved for cosmetic use the improved silicone gel implants made by two California corporations: Allergan Corp. and Mentor Corp. As of 2008, post-approval safety studies are ongoing. Many still feel that silicone implants look and feel more natural than saline implants, and these new silicone implants have become popular. Please see More on Silicone Gel Implants for further detail

At Cosmetic Surgical Center, we offer both saline and silicone implants and find them both to be effective and reliable. To learn more about breast augmentation issues, please call or email our cosmetic surgery office today and we will be glad to schedule a personal consultation for you.