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Saline VS Silicone - Which One is Weaker/stronger and Which Will Last Longer?

I am very comfortable getting saline implants because both my mother and sister have been successful with theirs... however a nurse at a clinic was very down on saline and said they tear easier than silicone? This worries me because I want them to last the rest of my life (I am 36 years old) with out any worries. My husband also wonders if he may be able to handle them as firmly as he is normally used to, and does not want to damage or tear them. Thank you for your replies!

Doctor Answers (9)

Saline and Silicone implants have similar longevities

+2

Don't make your decision about silicone vs saline based on how long they last. They have the same shell and therefore should have similar longevities.  There are other much more important differences to weigh your decision making  on.  Implants and their shells are constantly being improved, therefore past experience may not translate into future expectations and longevity.


Mobile Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Implants

+2

Saline and silicone are both very good implants to select. They last about the same time. However, I caution you that the statistics suggest that patients on average have at least 2 operations in their lifetime regarding breast implants, so do not assume they will last forever.

Steven Wallach, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 15 reviews

Implant durability

+2

Dear Mountain Girl,

It is true that saline implants are more prone to failure, but this has little to due with squezing them!  Saline implants eventually fail not because of rough handling but because of  fold failure and/or valve failure.  Folding of the shell of a saline implant is more severe than in silicone gel implants because the saline doesn't offer much support to the shell the way that gel does.  This constant folding over time causes stress fractures in the shell material, eventually forming true cracks which allows the implant's contents to escape.  Additionally, saline implants have a filling valve that can fail as well; silicone gel implants don't.

The risk of a saline implant failure and therefore deflation is about 10% in ten years; however, by 15 years the rate is nearly 50%.  By contrast, silicone gel implants rate of failure is about 5% at ten years. Data on silicone gel rupture rate at 15 years is not available yet, but appears to be much better than that of saline implants. 

More significant is that silicone gel implants do not deflate if the outer shell is ruptured, because silicone is trapped inside the capsule or scar your body forms around the implant, which is perfectly safe but makes it impossible to know the status of your implants by physical examination alone.  This means that you will need to check your breast implants by ultrasound or MRI on occasion to see if they have ruptured, and if they have, you should have them replaced.

You should see a doctor certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery who specializes in breast augmentation and discuss all these important issues before moving forward.  If you cannot tolerate the possibility of a second operation in your lifetime, than breast augmentation might not be for you.

Best of luck!

Gerald Minniti, MD, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

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Breast Implants Are Not Permanent or Life-Long Devices

+2

There are some material and feel differences between saline vs silicone gel breast implants but neither one is necessarily superior over the other. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages and understanding these subtle differences is important in your selection process. Neither type of breast implant is better, safer or will necessarily last longer. They both are resistant to the normal handling forces of everyday life. This being said, it is critical to understand that at age 36 that no breast implant will last the rest of your lifetime. That is not realistic for a manmade medical device. You will be fortunate to get 10 to 20 years of use before one of them will fail and need to be replaced.

Barry L. Eppley, MD, DMD
Indianapolis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

All implants will age and can rupture at some point in your life.

+2

While it is true that both silicone and saline implants are very durable, many patients will need to have them replaced at some point in their lifetime. Saline implants do have a slightly higher rupture rate than silicone, but silicone ruptures are more difficult to detect. I think both implants can provide beautiful results. However, I think there are often differences in the appearance of Saline vs. Silicone implants. In general, silicone implants feel softer, and more natural. There is a lower incidence of having palpable or visible ripples with silicone. No matter which implant you choose, be sure to discuss the pros and cons of each implant option with your surgeon.

Daniel P. Markmann, MD
Baltimore Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 69 reviews

Neither Saline nor Silicone Implants Likely to Last Lifetime

+2

I agree with Dr. Placik that you should not expect any implant to last throughout your lifetime.  Studies are currently underway (since silicone implants were reintroduced for augmentations) to determine the average life expectancy of both types of implants.  Your choice should be made on other grounds (natural feel, rippling, Cost, etc.).

John Whitt, MD
Louisville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Which Breast implants Leak more frequently Smooth Saline VS Smooth Siliconer gel Implants

+1

Regarding: "Saline VS Silicone - Which One is Weaker/stronger and Which Will Last Longer?
I am very comfortable getting saline implants because both my mother and sister have been successful with theirs... however a nurse at a clinic was very down on saline and said they tear easier than silicone? This worries me because I want them to last the rest of my life (I am 36 years old) with out any worries. My husband also wonders if he may be able to handle them as firmly as he is normally used to, and does not want to damage or tear them. Thank you for your replies
!"

You need to read much more about breast implants. Breast implants are NOT lifelong devices. Like all man made objects they will fail (1 day to 25 years after surgery with an ever increasing average life time now around 14 years). As a result, if you live to 88 years or so you will probably live through more than 2 implant exchanges for leaks.

Both saline filled and silicone gel implants have the same shells. The reason why saline implants have a slightly higher leak rate is that have a weak pint in the shell where the fill valve enters while the gel implants come prefilled without any valves.

Breast implants are engineered to withstand a lot of compression forces including the average male grope. I would not worry about that as a likely cause of a leak except in very old and leak prone implants.

Dr. Peter Aldea

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 58 reviews

Saline versus silicone implants

+1

There are advantages and disadvantages to saline and silicone implants, and as long as you understand the pros and cons of each I think you'll be fine with whichever you choose to have.  One thing to remember however is that all implants are devices, which means that over time they may require removal and replacement for issues such as leak, rupture or capsular contracture.  While there are lots of women who only have one augmentation procedure and never require another one, I tell all my patients that it is very possible that they will need more surgery in the future (so in your case, I would tell you if you only want to have one procedure and never have another one again, you should perhaps consider not having the procedure).  

It is true that there is a slightly higher risk of rupture with saline implants compared to silicone, and most patients I see prefer the silicone implants because of the more natural look and feel, in particular in very thin women who do not have a lot of breast tissue or fat to camouflage the implants.  

In the end, it is your choice, and I would strongly recommend having a long discussion with your surgeon about what to expect postop before you decide how to move forward.

Shahram Salemy, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 91 reviews

Silicone and saline implants and rupture.

+1

DO NOT GET IMPLANTS expectiin them to last forever. That is NOT a realistic expectation and you will surely be disappointed. While it is true that saline implants may have a higher rupture rate when compared to current silicone implants according to publsihed data, the uissues surrounding diagnosing and treating a ruptured silicone implant are far more complex.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 41 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.