Breast Implants in the 21st Century
Breast Implants Explained
Dr. Stephens is known as one of the Northwest’s experts and pioneers in utilizing innovative techniques for breast augmentation. Having performed thousands of breast augmentation procedures, he has an intimate knowledge of the available implants.
The type and the size of breast implants are unique for each individual woman. During your consultation, Dr. Stephens and his staff will spend an extensive amount of time educating you about the current implants and about his techniques. They will help guide you in selecting the ones that suit your specific goals.
Saline vs. Silicone? Now Gummy Bear? What’s the Deal?
Well Here’s the Deal
First, all breast implants are “silicone based” in that they have an outer shell made of silicone. What distinguishes breast implants, in general, is the material they are filled with. In the past 10 years, advances in silicone technology have made the silicone gel implant material safer.
- Silicone Implants: These are the “traditional” breast implants that we think of in that they are filled with silicone gel. It is agreed within the industry that silicone implants feel more natural than saline. They come in “natural-shaped” and “round-shaped” styles. Specifically, they are selected by considering their “ideal width” and “projection” from the body for the unique goals of the woman. While adjustments cannot be made to them once they are placed, there are now so many different sizes and dimensions that this isn’t really a problem. The incision needed to insert this type of implant is also a bit longer than would be necessary for saline implants; however, Dr. Stephens uses the Keller Funnel® to place all of his implants, which reduces the length of the scar.
- Gummy Bear; Cohesive Breast Implants: This describes a generic term for the latest and safest implants that have been developed by all of the current manufacturers utilizing the newest gel materials. Sientra® first coined the term for their “gummy bear” implant, but Allergan, who initially called theirs “gummy” to distinguish their “form-stable” shaped implant, now use the term “gummy” to describe all of their round gel implants. A better way to look at these new and vastly safer implants is that they are cohesive. Cohesive implants consist of gel that sticks very well to itself to provide a more stable shape to the implant. In the case of the Sientra® implant, the gel doesn’t escape the shell of the implant due to the unique design of the implant gel to the shell interface. Dr. Stephens uses these safe cohesive gel implants in over 90 percent of all of his breast implant procedures.
- Saline Implants: All saline implants are filled with a natural, sterile “saline” solution. These are filled with saline to the manufacturers’ specifications once they have been placed in the breast pocket. Saline implants are firmer and typically have more risk of rippling around their edges than silicone gel implants. They can be placed through smaller incisions, and minor adjustments in size can be made in them.
Round vs. Teardrop, “Anatomical” Shaped Breast Implants
Round breast implants are by far the most common choice for breast augmentation and are used in over 90 percent of cosmetic breast implant cases in the United States, even though the manufacturers have heavily promoted the “shaped” teardrop-type implant. They are typically softer than most teardrop-shaped implants. They will “teardrop” when placed under the pectoral muscle, and they feel more like the natural breast due to their softer gel (in all but the stiffest implants), and there is no possibility of a deformity should they rotate in the breast pocket.
Teardrop, or “anatomical” shaped breast implants were developed to mimic the “natural” shape, or the contour, of the breasts. While they are available in both saline and silicone, currently the silicone are much more commonly used these days. The Allergan “anatomical” shaped implants are made of the thicker and stiffer “gummy bear” material, whereas the Sientra® “anatomical” shaped implant is softer but is still designed to maintain its shape, so it is a bit stiffer than its “round” implant.
Smooth vs. Textured
The shell of a breast implant can be either smooth or textured. Smooth implants are slick and move within the breast pocket, whereas the textured implants are designed to grip the breast pocket to retain their position. Teardrop implants are textured to prevent them from rotating in the breast implant pocket and to hold their position.
Currently, the Allergan textured implant has been discontinued in Europe, Brazil, Australia, and most recently, Canada due to the possible relationship between their type of texturing process and the rare risk of a type of cancer called Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) that has been found in one of 30,000 cases over the past 15 years. Neither the textured surface of the Sientra® nor the Mentor® implant has been implicated in this. For more on this, see our blog article on BIA-ALCL.
The VECTRA® 3D Imaging System
We are proud to offer the VECTRA® 3D imaging system from Canfield. It consists of six cameras that take a precise topographical three-dimensional image of your body that is then input into the computer application that shows how you can look with breast implants of different widths and profiles as well as with round versus shaped implants. This amazing device proves the point that a picture is worth a thousand words; it truly provides a realistic image of your potential results. It is a great communication tool that allows Dr. Stephens to understand your desired result and allows us to understand your goals and provide recommendations for you. It is also very helpful to bring in photos with results you like.
We offer implants from several manufacturers, including:
Sientra® silicone implants include a wide variety of widths and projections of round and “anatomical type” (teardrop) shaped breast implants. We are currently utilizing the Sientra® breast implants in over 90 percent of our silicone implant procedures, as they have demonstrated a uniquely strong interface bonding between the implant gel and the shell so that even if they break, they don’t “rupture,” in the sense that the implant material stays within the implant. They also offer an extensive limited warranty of 20 years against implant failure as well as a limited “capsular contracture” warranty. We love that they have a true, “Moderate Plus” projection style that fits between the high and moderate profile implant.
Boasting a wide variety of implant options and dimensions as well as being one of the long-time leaders in the breast implant industry with a long safety record, Allergan breast implants have the widest choices in implant widths and profiles, from the low profile, low plus, moderate, high, and ultra high choices. They offer both saline and silicone implants in a variety of sizes, projections, and shape choices as well as three different stiffness qualities (gummy) with their round implants for those who want a firmer, rounder breast. Dr. Stephens has been an Allergan user for 20 years due to their emphasis on quality and customer service.
Frequently Asked Questions About Breast Implants
How long do breast implants last?
Over 90 percent of the current cohesive breast implants used by Dr. Stephens have been shown to last at least 10 years — and the failure rate of the Sientra® gummy bear implant is as low as 8.5 percent. The risk of an implant rupture increases after 10 years; however, there is no data as to the exact failure rates. Because of this, in 2021, the FDA recommended that women with breast implants have a high-definition ultrasound study or an MRi to assess their implants every other year. Expect that you will have to replace your implant at some point as they are not lifetime devices.
Can you breastfeed with implants?
Overall, women can breastfeed after breast augmentation. The periareolar approach to place the implant might potentially interfere with the ability to breastfeed, although this is not typically a problem.
If you want to breastfeed after your operation, Dr. Stephens may recommend using a submuscular implant location because there is a much higher risk of capsular contracture when the implant is placed above the pectoral muscle and under the breast gland.
It is important to note that getting pregnant or gaining weight after breast augmentation may change your breast contours and risk the breast falling over the implant. For this reason, Dr. Stephens may recommend that patients wait until they are done having children (if this is an immediate consideration) before undergoing breast augmentation. This reduces the chance that you will want breast revision surgery.
Will the texture or consistency of my breasts change after getting breast implants?
You may notice changes in the way your breasts feel after your breast implant procedure. The degree of change will depend on the implant location, size, and type. Generally speaking, all implants are going to leave your breasts more firm than natural breast tissue. Saline implants are lighter but feel firmer than silicone implants and may be more noticeable.
Immediately following breast augmentation surgery, your breasts will feel firmer, but this should fade (initially over the first four to six weeks to as long as three to six months as your breasts adjust to your implants).
If your breasts still feel overly hard or you begin to experience pain and stiffness in your breasts, contact Dr. Stephens, as this may be signs of capsular contracture.
Can breast implants make it harder to exercise?
If you choose an appropriately sized breast implant for your body, you should have no trouble exercising with breast implants once the recovery has been completed. We have a rapid recovery protocol that will get you back to your cardio and lower body soon; however, you should refrain from fully exercising your chest for the first three months after your surgery (or when cleared by Dr. Stephens).
If you choose a breast implant that is too large for your frame, you may experience adverse side effects, such as breast sagging, abnormal displacement, or discomfort. Dr. Stephens will discuss these risks with you while you are selecting your breast implant. While you can go to a fuller implant if you want and we are experts on the fit of a larger implant, we like to say that shape trumps size, and it is best to stay within natural anatomic boundaries for the beautiful breasts that will look this way for many years to come!.
How much are the breast implants?
The cost of breast implants can range from $800 to $1,900 for the pair. You can learn more about the cost of breast implants by reading Dr. Stephens’ breakdown of your breast augmentation costs.
Have more questions? Call our office at (425) 455-0444 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Stephens.