Saline breast implants are used to increase the bust size or create more fullness especially in the cleavage and upper poles. However, these devices are also used to reconstruct the breasts after mastectomy or cancer surgery in which the affected tissue or tumor is removed.
Saline implants vary in volume (defined by cubic centimeter or cc), shell thickness, shape (round vs teardrop), and shell surface (smooth vs textured). They are also available in inflatable and prefilled version.
In the US, only the inflatable saline implants are available, meaning they are filled at the time of breast augmentation surgery. With this design, plastic surgeons can insert the device using a very small incision, thereby minimizing the appearance of scars.
As its name suggests, saline implant is filled with saline, which is a sterile mixture of salt and water. And with its content, there is no serious risk in case of leak, although the tradeoff is that the affected breast will immediately look deflated and will need a revision surgery.
On the other hand, a leak in silicone implants that is undetected for a long period of time can lead to inflammation of the tissue, pain, and discomfort. Because of such risks, patients with this implant type are required to undergo regular MRI breast screening at least every two years.
In the US, the typical size of saline implant ranges between 120cc and 850cc, although women who want to go larger will need custom-made implants. But because of the risks associated with extreme sizes, most plastic surgeons would likely decline any surgery to patients who are “going overboard.”
All inflatable saline implants have valves, which are often located in front. Most manufacturers use diaphragm valve; it has a “male portion” at the end of its tubing that when snapped into the “female receptor hole,” is left into the implant shell, thereby sealing the device.
Meanwhile, women with limited tissue or small breasts are often advised to stay away from saline implant because it can lead to unnatural outcome (the bosom appears unusually round). By contrast, patients with ample amounts of tissue have no problem with this implant; in fact, there is no visible difference if they use silicone or saline.