Breast Implants – By the Numbers

1. In 2010, 1.5 million women around the world had breast augmentation surgery. About 300,000 of them lived in the United States, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

2. Breast implants are measured in cubic centimeters (ccs) rather than cup size. On a woman who is completely flat-chested and has a medium-sized frame, a 450 cc implant would be equivalent to the average C-cup bra.

51oexEb-ArL._SY300_3. The largest standard saline implant is 775 ccs, while a silicone gel implant is 800 ccs. That’s equivalent to about 27 ounces, like this can of salsa.

4. The difference between a 375 cc and a 400 cc implant is less than 2 tablespoons – the amount of oil you would add to boxed pancake mix.

5. Outside of the body, a saline implant would freeze at about 28 degrees Fahrenheit, while a silicone gel implant would ice up at around 170 degrees below zero. Because your breast implants are close to your body, your natural body heat will keep them warm.

6. An implant’s silicone shell would melt at temperatures greater than 392 degrees Fahrenheit. A conventional sauna is typically between 150 and 190 degrees. If you were in an environment where your implants would melt, you’d melt, too.

7. If you get a pair of 350 cc saline implants, they’ll weigh about 1.5 pounds. If you get a silicone gel set, they’ll be closer to 1.7 pounds. To calculate how much your implants weigh, see below:Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 9.09.52 AM

8. Breast implants are designed to be sturdy, and each manufacturer has its own testing protocol. Allergan tests its implants by exerting nearly 55 pounds of force on them repeatedly, up to 6.5 million times. By contrast, a routine mammogram exerts about 40 pounds of force when it compresses the breast, and if a woman had 50 mammograms in her lifetime, it would be a lot.

bag9. The TSA says that liquids and gels are safe to bring aboard an aircraft in limited amounts – 3.4 ounces or less. Thank goodness breast implants are “packed in your luggage,” so to speak, because one 425 cc implant is equal to about 14 ounces. It would be hard to squeeze it into one of those quart-sized plastic bags. To figure out how many ounces your implants are, divide the number of cubic centimeters in each of them by 30.

10. It’s rare for surgeons to charge more for a breast augmentation with larger-sized implants. Manufacturers don’t charge by the cubic centimeter either: They charge one set price for all off-the-shelf saline breast implants, whether they are 200 ccs or 600 ccs, and another set price (about $1,000 higher) for silicone gel implants.

Do breast implants need to be replaced every 10 years?

Several times a week in consultation, I answer questions like these:

“I need to replace my breast implants after 10 years, right?” Wrong.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 10.42.02 PM“You did my breast implants 14 years ago and I’m still happy with their appearance, but a friend just had her 10-year-old implants redone because her doctor said she had to. Is that true?” False.

Breast implants don’t have an expiration date. They only need to be replaced if they deflate (saline) or rupture (silicone), and they’re not fragile.

It’s no surprise that women believe that implants have a shelf life, but what causes the confusion? Breast implants come with a free lifetime product replacement policy. Manufacturers also offer a 10-year warranty to defray some costs of implant replacement surgery. When women hear this, some assume they have to replace their implants after 10 years.

20100129SAWG_fg03a

Vintage refrigerator ad: Only new 1967 Admiral Duplex comes in 4 sizes, has the 5 features women want most!

Don’t be misled by the warranty. Your refrigerator comes with a warranty, too, but you don’t automatically replace it when its warranty expires. You’ll probably keep it until it breaks down, unless you are redoing your kitchen and want a bigger or smaller model.

Women sometimes opt to replace their implants for bigger or smaller ones after childbirth, weight gain or a change of heart. I recently removed saline implants from a woman who wanted to go bigger after 19 years, and her implants looked the same as the day I put them in.

About 1-3 percent of the 300,000-plus women in the United States who have a breast augmentation each year eventually have surgery to replace implants that have ruptured or deflated.

The most common reason that an implant breaks is because it develops a fold in one spot. Over time, that fold might move back and forth, weaken, and then break, in the same way that a paper clip might break after it has been bent multiple times. I’ve found that if an implant doesn’t deflate from fold failure in the first 6-7 years, the likelihood of this happening seems to decrease, not increase, over time.

Implant replacement requires time off from work, exposes women to the risks of surgery and anesthesia, and may require some out-of-pocket expense. As far as replacing implants every 10 years, my philosophy is: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

 

 

Where does the saline in my implants come from?

By Dr. Ted
Saline breast implants have a silicone shell that is inserted empty and then filled with sterile salt water. But where exactly does that salt water come from?

I don’t make period trips to the beach to scoop up buckets of salt water. Although seawater does contain dissolved salts, it is also home to various microscopic organizations, which have no place in your implants.

Saline implants are filled with salt water in about the same density as the ocean water, so when you're swimming, you'll be neutrally buoyant.

Saline implants are filled with salt water in about the same density as ocean water, so when you’re swimming, you’ll be neutrally buoyant.

Nor do I fill a glass with tap water and shake in a teaspoon of salt, like my mom did when I had a sore throat and she made me gargle. Tap water won’t hurt you, but it does contain minerals and trace elements and is therefore not sterile.

The saline solution that fills saline breast implants is manufactured by a few pharmaceutical companies. It is a mixture of sodium chloride, or salt, and sterile water, and it’s free of contaminants, microorganisms and bacteria. That’s important to minimize the chance of infection.

Although saline solution is a simple drug, making it is surprisingly complicated. More than 30 steps and a range of supplies are involved in producing sterile saline. According to Valerie Jensen at the Food and Drug Administration, “It takes about three weeks to make one batch of normal saline from start to finish.”

There’s a huge demand for that saline. The same sterile saline solution that fills your breast implants is used in contact lens solutions and in dialysis labs. It’s used to clean wounds, mix medications and fill I.V. bags to rehydrate someone who’s lost fluids from diarrhea or vomiting.

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 3.15.08 PM

FILLING THE IMPLANTS: Saline implants are sterile as well, and I take every precaution to maintain their sterility. Once the empty implant is in place but before the incision is closed, I draw the sterile saline solution out of an IV bag and into a filling syringe. The saline is inserted through a valve in the implant. The valve is self-sealing, which prevents the saline from leaking out. This is known as a “sterile closed fill system.”

In addition, to lower the already-low chance of infection, patients are given oral antibiotics before surgery, the skin around the incision site is prepped with an antiseptic solution, and the field is irrigated with an antibiotic solution.

If a saline implant shell tears and the saline solution leaks out, it cannot harm you. It’s the same concentration as the salt water that makes up about 60 percent of the human body. Your body absorbs the saline and then you urinate it out.

So this holiday weekend, if you’re thinking of taking your breast implants for a swim in the ocean, know that they are filled with salt water that’s the same density as the ocean but didn’t come from the ocean.

Happy July 4th holiday.