The history of breast implants

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.

Who is the ideal candidate for a facelift?

As we age, a number of changes occur to the face and neck; the skin loses its elasticity and volume starts to disappear from the mid-face area, causing the brow to lower, cheeks to flatten, folds and lines to appear around the mouth and nose and sagging of the jawline. Dynamic wrinkles also start to appear, typically on the upper part of the face, as the skin thins.

The facelift is a cosmetic surgery procedure that aims to correct a number of these ageing concerns. A better name is probably facial rejuvenation surgery as it is rare for there to be one problem area as such, and often we need to combine with eyelid or neck surgery to produce the optimal result.

The importance of the consultation

A facelift might not be the ideal procedure for everyone which is why the consultation is such an important part of the process. An ideal candidate will have some sagging of the skin and other tissues but will still have good skin elasticity.

The degree of ageing and your stage in life will also be taken into account, as a facelift does not halt the ageing process but simply resets it. It may be that non-surgical procedures such as Botox, Chemical Peel, Dermal Fillers or Radiofrequency device tightening and rejuvenation may be the preferred option at this stage, although any of these may provide a helpful adjunct to surgery as well. If the ageing concern relates to dynamic wrinkles that occur usually in the upper third of the face, then these are more likely to be addressed by muscle-relaxing injections than by facial rejuvenation surgery.

Realistic expectations are essential and I will weigh this up with you during your consultation. A facelift can have dramatic results, but it won’t make you look like someone else; the aim is always to produce a natural enhancement.

Who is not suitable for a facelift?

Age is not necessarily the determining factor of whether you should or shouldn’t have a facelift. Your overall health is a much more important consideration and this will be evaluated at the consultation. Certain medical conditions may prevent you undergoing a facelift and if you suffer from hypertrophic/keloid scarring, where scars do not flatten and fade overtime, but instead become red and swollen, then you may be advised to avoid surgery.

Smoking brings with it a number of significant problems, from increased risks when undergoing a general anaesthetic and getting a chest infection to poor healing and infection. I tell smokers that they must stop smoking at least 8 weeks before their surgery and for at least 4 weeks afterwards and warn them that it they don’t follow these recommendations then their results may be affected. If they don’t stop before, I won’t operate.

Any surgical procedure performed under a general anaesthetic involves a period of recovery, so it is important that the patient is able to take time off from normal activities to allow the healing process to take place.

To find out if you are an ideal candidate for a facelift procedure, the next step should be to book a consultation with a BAAPS member Consultant Plastic Surgeon, who will have your best interests at heart and will be able to offer you impartial advice.