In March 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration has finally approved gummy bear breast implants (from implant manufacturer Sientra) after several years of clinical trials. Meanwhile, the new devices have already been around for 10 years in Europe.
Compared to earlier versions of silicone implants, gummy bear implants have a more cohesive silicone gel that even if their shell is cut in half, the filling would not leak. And with this characteristic, many plastic surgeons around the world believe that the new devices are probably safer than other types of breast implants.
Plastic surgeons coined the term “gummy bear” because the implants’ soft but firm structure is somewhat similar to the sweet candy.
Leading Los Angeles plastic surgeon Dr. Tarick Smaili believes the recently approved breast implants may further push the popularity of breast augmentation surgery in the country. Last year, the procedure ranked first on the list of the most commonly performed cosmetic plastic surgeries.
In terms of advantages, Smaili said that gummy bear implants are “quite notable” particularly when it comes to safety.
“With the cohesive silicone gel, the possibility of rupture and leak is close to nothing. Another advantage is that the implant is form-stable and would not lose its shape,” Smaili said.
And because the risk of leak is almost not a concern, regular MRI screening is no longer needed. (This is a requirement for women with traditional silicone breast implants because their somewhat fluid gel would seep out in the event of rupture.)
Another advantage, Smaili said, is the lower risk of capsular contracture which happens when the surrounding scar tissue squeezes the implant shell to the point that it causes breast deformity, pain, and other complications.
The newest implant is also called “type 5 gel” because it is the fifth generation silicone implant in the market since 1962. Meanwhile, silicone implants currently produced by Allergan and Mentor fall under the category of “type 4 gel” which is cohesive but not form-stable.
But because gummy bear implants are firmer than the earlier versions of silicone implant, they require a longer incision. Fortunately, patients can choose from four incision sites which are designed to make the scar less visible.
Another consideration is the risk of rotation. Since the implants come in teardrop shape, they may result to deformity in case they rotate inside the breast pocket (though the textured or “grainy” surface can prevent this problem from happening).