In 2012 a cosmetic surgery milestone was reached as it was 50 years since the first breast augmentation surgery using silicone implants was performed. In 1962 a Texas woman, Timmie Lindsey, who was seeking a tattoo removal procedure was offered a breast augmentation procedure by two plastic surgeons keen to experiment with a new type of implant.
This is not to say that there hadn’t been breast augmentation surgery prior to the 1960s. Women have long wanted to enhance their natural figures and it’s thought that since at least the late 1800s there had been a form of primitive breast augmentation performed, with all manner of substances and foreign objects injected and inserted into the breast, often with disastrous results. These included animal fat, paraffin, industrial-grade silicone, glass balls, ivory, ground rubber and sponges.
The two plastic surgeons in question, Doctors Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin, had developed a silicone breast implant after Gerow had a eureka moment when squeezing a plastic transfusion bag full of blood and thought it resembled a woman’s breast in terms of softness and malleability. At the same time, Dr Cronin had learnt that there was a manufacturing company, the Dow Corning Corp, that had developed a new product that could be produced at a variety of densities and could be liquid or solid.
A prototype was developed that was first inserted into a dog and then into Timmie Lindsey, heralding one of the most important developments in Cosmetic Surgery. Breast augmentation with implants is the number one Cosmetic Surgical procedure in the UK and it’s thought that between 5 and 10 million women worldwide have undergone the procedure.
Silicone versus saline
Coming fast on the heels of the Cronin-Gerow silicone implant was the development of a saline implant that was launched in 1964. As with the silicone implants it has a silicone shell, but is filled with saline solution. They also have the option of being implanted empty and then filled when in situ which has the benefit of much smaller incisions.
In 1992, the FDA in America stopped the sale of silicone implants because of safety concerns, meaning saline implants were used far more in the US, but since 2006 certain silicone brands have been approved for use in the US.
In the UK both saline and silicone implants have always been available, but you’ll find saline implants are now used much less often that silicone implants. They have a much higher rate of leakage that can cause the implants to deflate over time. They are also more likely to produce a rippling or wrinkling effect that is noticeable to the eye, whereas the more viscous silicone filling of silicone implants mimics natural breast tissue much better.
I only use the leading implant brands for breast augmentation surgery. There are a wide range of different shapes, sizes and projections to choose from but, most importantly, their safety and quality is monitored and audited regularly, allowing early detection of any possible problem and providing maximum confidence for my patients and for myself.