Is the safety of breast implants actively monitored?

Both saline and silicone breast implants are considered safe for breast augmentation and breast reconstruction. Long-term follow-up studies on new devices — in which researchers look for evidence of continued safety and effectiveness of saline and silicone breast implants — are ongoing.

What factors should I consider before getting breast implants?

If you're thinking about breast augmentation or reconstruction, it's important to understand what it means to have breast implants. In addition to changing your appearance, remember that:

  • Breast implants won't prevent your breasts from sagging. To correct sagging breasts, you might need to consider a breast lift in addition to breast augmentation.
  • Breast implants aren't guaranteed to last a lifetime. Implant rupture is a possibility. Also, your breasts will continue to age after augmentation — and factors such as weight gain or weight loss might further change the way your breasts look. Any of these issues might lead to additional surgery.
  • Mammograms might be more complicated. If you have breast implants, routine mammograms might require additional, specialized views.
  • You might need routine MRI scans. The Food and Drug Administration recommends monitoring silicone breast implants with routine MRI scans every two years, starting three years after the initial implant surgery. Debate continues, however, on whether the benefit of routine MRI scans justifies the cost. There's also a concern that routine MRI scans have the potential to lead to unnecessary surgery.
  • Breast implants might hamper breast-feeding. Some women are able to successfully breast-feed after breast augmentation, while others aren't.
  • Insurance might not cover breast implants. Unless it's medically necessary — such as the need for implant reconstruction after a mastectomy — breast augmentation might not be covered by your insurance plan. Be prepared to handle any expenses that accompany breast augmentation, including related surgeries or future imaging tests.
  • You might need additional surgery after breast implant removal. If you decide to have your implants removed, you might need a breast lift or other corrective surgery to help your breasts maintain an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

What's the bottom line?

Based on your breast anatomy, body type and other factors, your surgeon might recommend one type of implant over another for optimal cosmetic results. Ultimately, however, the choice between saline and silicone is up to you.

Aug. 16, 2012 See more In-depth