January 10, 2012.
A breast implant is a technique used in cosmetic surgery to increase
the size of one's breasts or to reconstruct the breast (for example,
after a mastectomy). There are three types of breast implants:
Saline-filled which have an external silicone shell and are filled
with sterile saline liquid. These implants are currently the only ones
available in the United States.
Silicone gel-filled which have an external silicone shell and are
filled with silicone gel. They are not currently available for implant
in the United States, but future regulation may change this. In the 60
countries outside the United States where silicone implants remain
available, they are used in approximately 90% of implant operations.
String implant, a third, much less common type of implant. This
implant uses a polypropylene material as an implant. String implants
are unique in that they cause the breast to perpetually expand after
surgery, and are preferred by those women who choose to have the
largest breasts possible. They are not currently available for implant
in the United States, but future regulation may change this.
Breast implants have been used at least since 1865 to augment the size
of women's breasts. The earliest known implant occurred in Germany in
which fat from a benign tumor was removed from a woman's back and
implanted in her breast. In following years the medical community
experimented with implants of various materials, most commonly
paraffin. The first use of silicone as breast-implant material may
have been by Japanese prostitutes in the period immediately following
World War II.
Risks and controversy
In the United States, implants from silicone gel were banned by the
Food and Drug Administration because of growing concerns about the
safety of such implants. More than one million women had availed
themselves of the implants at the time of the ban, and the subsequent
litigation led manufacturers to agree to a settlement of USD$4.25
billion. The degree of risk associated with silicone-gel breast
implants is still a matter of debate within the scientific community.
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Improperly performed breast implants
The health hazards of breast implants have been debated greatly in
recent years. Some people believe that breast implants cause such
illnesses as autoimmune disease, although both the AMA and FDA have
found there to be no evidence of this. However, documented problems
with breast implants include rupture, deflation, infection, scarring
and hardening of the implants.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, breast
augmentation is the most commonly performed cosmetic surgical
procedure on women in the United States. In 2002, 236,888 women in the
U.S. underwent breast augmentation. According to the National
Institute for Women, one in four silicone implant recipients must
undergo surgery, within 5 years, to correct implant problems.
New procedures are being examined. A new procedure currently being
examined uses a titanium mesh as the support for silicone breast
implants to keep them from shifting downwards. This helps treat and
prevent sagging of the breasts that may complicate the use of some