What are the different types of breast implants that are available and what is the main difference between them?

The two major classes of implants that are commonly used in North America are what we generally refer to as “silicone gel” implants and “saline” implants. This is in reference to the type of material that is used to fill the implant. 

All implant types have a silicone shell on the outside and a material on the inside that is used to add the volume of the implant. A silicone gel implant uses a silicone gel material that is pre-made. Because this comes as a fabricated implant, the implant size can’t be adjusted during surgery and we have to choose the size of the implant before we operate. A saline implant has a silicone shell on the outside and a valve in the shell that the surgeon can inject saline into during surgery. Saline is a term we use for salt water and is safe for use in implants. In the case of a saline implant, because the surgeon has to fill the implant at the time of surgery, there is some minor flexibility with regards to the ultimate size of the implant.

The difference in implant type is significant and is probably best described by the types of complications that are more common with each. It is important to understand that there is no perfect implant—they all have features that make them better for different people. However, they each have complication types that are slightly more common that patients need to understand. It is important to understand these so you can make the decision that is best for you.