Adjustable Breast Implant Takes Guess-Work Out of Sizing

Princess 19 on 19 Sep 2011 at 9:00am

Let's face it:  some of us have a hard time deciding what we want to eat.  So when it comes to something as permanent as breast implants, it's easy to get stuck in a quandary.  Especially because they will look slightly different in your body vs. your bra.  But for the indecisive or uncertain, there is a solution: adjustable breast implants. 

They are called permanent expanders, an adjustable breast implant that was initially only used to "expand" the tissue and skin to prepare a patient for breast augmentation or reconstructive surgery following a masectomy.  (It would be replaced with a permanent implant when the desired stretching was done.) 

A tube is connected to the implant to fill the sac with saline and allow the implant to "grow."  More recently, these expanders are becoming popular as pemanent implants for patients that truly just can't decide how big or little they want to be.  A permanent expander can be filled with a gel-saline solution or just saline.

Dr. Weinzweig adjustable breast implants

“A woman comes in with one idea where she wants to be,” said Chicago plastic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Weinzweig.  “But after a couple of months when the swelling settles down, she might wish the size was bigger … With the adjustable breast implants, we have the luxury of coming in three months later and asking, ‘Where do we stand now?' "

According to Dr. Weinzweig in the Chicago Sun-Times, the surgical procedure is the same.  However, there is a window of three to six months afterward, where the patient can request to change the size of the implants, making them larger or smaller.  There are small portal openings placed just underneath the skin, connected to the implants. The physician can use a small needle to go into the opening and inject more or less solution, depending on what size the patient finally deires.  After six months, the opening is removed.

"It takes six months for the implant to really settle into its final position,” he adds. “It’s common for them [patients] to want to make them bigger. Maybe around 90 percent want a little more fullness.

RealSelf member, FanciFt, loved having control over the size of her new "assets" - which took a few months to finalize.

"I absolutely love them, they are swollen and will go down in time," she said.  "Yes, I have had to be very patient, but it was all worth it, they look natural and amazing. Because I know exactly what I will be when I am done."

Her final comment was something many patients ponder after an augmentation.

"No wishing I was smaller or larger." 

breast implant before and afters

As noted, Dr. Weinzweig doesn’t charge more for a breast augmentation with an adjustable implant, although the implant itself costs a little extra.  But, this may not be the case for all physicians.

“I have been doing it [using permanent expanders] for several years,” he said. “It has become a lot more popular nationally the last couple of years.

"The reality is, you really can’t go wrong. You can see them in the mirror and can have the size changed as many times as you want in the window of those three months … I think this is all positive.”

Now, you really don't have to decide.  But, with this route, patience is a virtue.

Photo credit:  Flickr By mydobbs and Dr. Jeffrey Weinzweig contributed to Chicago Sun-Times

Comments (6)

There used to be an implant made by Mentor called a Becker after the Florida plastic surgeon which had an saline inner envelope that was adjustable and an outer silicone implant. This gave the feel of gel but the postop adjustability of saline. Unfortunately this is no longer available in the US.
  • Reply

Thanks for the clarification Dr. Rand! Do you know why it was discontinued in the US?

  • Reply

When researching this story, it was found that adjustable silicone gel implants were invented, but the source said it was only available in Europe.  Are there any doctors out there that would like to add to the conversation and clarify the availability?

  • Reply
I have used this adjustable saline implant for over 20 years and find it to be invaluable in augmentation cases where there is asymmetry, or if a patient wants a particularly large size or specific look, and for the perfectionistic patient or one who has had implants elsewhere and didn't like the size and I want them to have control of the final result and to actively participate in that result. They aren't for everyone and they don't come in silicone gel, but these implants do play a great role for some cases.
  • Reply
Dr Richard, does the Becker implant usually leaks when the port is removed? How much? I heard that it can be 25-50cc, and it has to be overfilled before the removal, but I could not find anyone else reporting this issue. How it is in your experience?
  • Reply

Very cool! Only sad thing is that it's only for saline... so if you're sold on silicone you're outta luck. But if you're uncertain on size it may be worth the trade-off! 

  • Reply