When it comes to cosmetic surgical procedures, it’s critical to acknowledge the risks associated with each treatment. The topic of breast implants, notably saline implants, often raises concerns due to widely held misconceptions. Saline implants, in particular, have garnered attention, with some individuals advocating for their superiority over silicone implants. But are they truly safe?
At Executive Plastic Surgery, our focus lies in understanding the complications linked to breast implants and advocating for patient health and wellbeing. In fact, Dr. Shaher Khan, a recognized breast implant illness specialist, has drawn a clear line against breast implant procedures because of the increasing body of evidence against their safety.
This article debunks myths regarding the safety of saline implants and delves into their risks.
Not Safer Than Silicone Implants
There’s a common misconception that saline implants pose fewer risks than silicone implants. This assumption primarily stems from the nature of the filler substance. Saline, essentially sterile saltwater, is harmless and can be absorbed by the body in case of a rupture. On the other hand, silicone gel cannot be absorbed and may cause health complications if it leaks into the body. While these facts seem to favor saline implants, this is a superficial assessment.
Both types of implants are encased in a silicone shell, meaning that even with saline implants, the body is still exposed to silicone. Therefore, the notion that saline implants are significantly safer than silicone ones is a myth. Both saline and silicone implants pose considerable risks ranging from implant ruptures to breast implant illness and autoimmune disorders.
BII: Your Body Is At War With Your Implants
The term Breast Implant Illness (BII) has gained increasing traction over the years, with a significant number of women reporting a constellation of symptoms — collectively referred to as BII — following breast implant surgery. These can include fatigue, cognitive issues (such as memory loss or difficulty concentrating), muscle and joint pain, hair loss, and autoimmune diseases. While the true cause of BII is not yet known, it’s believed that the body may mount an immune response against the implants, essentially treating them as foreign invaders.
Regardless of whether the implants are filled with saline or silicone, the shell material is essentially the same and is comprised of a silicone polymer. This polymer is not biocompatible, and the immune system does not recognize it as a natural part of the body. This immune response can lead to chronic inflammation and a plethora of related health problems. Some patients with saline implants have even reported conditions such as scleroderma, Sjögren’s syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Implant Rupture & Deflation
Silicone implant ruptures are often ‘silent,’ meaning they do not present any immediate signs. Comparatively, saline implant ruptures are typically noticeable due to the immediate deflation of the implant, as the body absorbs the saline solution. This might lead one to believe that saline implants are harmless in the event of a rupture. However, while the body can safely absorb saline, the rupture can still lead to painful complications and requires surgical correction.
Furthermore, saline implants are susceptible to the growth of mold, yeast, and bacteria. When the seal of the implant suffers damage or deterioration, it creates an environment conducive to bacterial growth inside the implant. This contaminated fluid can gradually leak from the implant and disseminate throughout the body. The bacteria and mold harbored in saline implants can lead to chronic infections and serious health complications when they seep into the body.
Breast Implant Cancer (BIA-ALCL)
In recent years, growing attention has been given to the link between breast implants and an uncommon type of cancer, termed Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). This is not a form of breast cancer, but rather a rare cancer of the immune system. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has acknowledged that all types of breast implants can pose a risk for developing BIA-ALCL — silicone and saline. This form of cancer usually occurs 8 to 10 years after surgery.
A Call for Reconsideration
Breast augmentation is a deeply personal decision, often motivated by a desire to improve self-image and confidence. However, any procedure that introduces a foreign object into the body carries inherent risks. As we’ve discussed, saline implants are not exempt from these risks. We encourage anyone considering breast augmentation to thoroughly research the potential complications and consider safer alternatives to achieve the desired results.
By offering breast implant removal but not implantation, Dr. Khan promotes a proactive, health-centered approach to body aesthetics. The potential harms associated with breast implants — saline or silicone — should be thoroughly understood and recognized. Your health and well-being should always take precedence over aesthetic considerations.