An Ideal Comeback for Saline Breast Implants?
by Beauty Blogger Emmy Owens
But a funny thing happened as saline implants spiraled into becoming a footnote in the history of cosmetic breast surgery. A plastic surgeon developed the Ideal Implant®, which is said to offer the look and feel of popular cohesive silicone gel implants — without the silicone.
Approved by the FDA in late 2015 and available from only a select handful of plastic surgeons nationwide, the Ideal Implant is trying to spark renewed interest in saline breast implants. Consider that in the decade since the FDA re-approved silicone implants for use in breast augmentation, saline implants went from being chosen for more than half of all procedures to being used in only about 25% of breast enhancement surgeries in 2014.
Still, some women remained wary of the cohesive silicone gel implants. Because a cohesive silicone gel implant retains its shape even if it tears or cracks — sometimes called a “silent rupture” — an MRI is needed to detect problems in the gel implants. (The FDA recommends that patients with silicone gel implants have an MRI 3 years after the initial augmentation and every 2 years after that.)
That doesn’t mean the silicone gel implants pose a health risk. Studies have shown they are quite safe. Nonetheless, Dr. Robert S. Hamas started developing the Ideal Implant because he believed women wanted an implant that combined the natural feel of a silicone gel with the peace of mind offered by an implant filled with saline.
Make no mistake, the introduction of a new saline breast implant is news. Innovation in saline implants is rare. Since the approval of silicone gel implants in 2006, researchers have worked diligently to improve the shape and cohesiveness of the silicone implants. During that same time, although there have been a few design patents filed for saline implants, the Ideal Implant is the first new saline design to be cleared by the FDA in 20 years.
A 10-year study of the Ideal Implant, conducted by the company, is currently underway at 35 sites in 7 metropolitan areas. It will conclude in 2019 and includes almost 500 women, ages 18 to 67. FDA approval was based on the initial 2-year results. Rates of capsular contracture (the unpredictable hardening of tissue around implants, which can occur with both silicone and saline implants and increase with time) was lower at 4 years in first-time Ideal Implant patients (5.4%) than with other saline implants at 3 years (8.7% and 9.0%) or silicone gel implants.
One of the few plastic surgeons who currently has access to Ideal Implants still favors cohesive silicone gel implants in most cases.
“I am very candid about my preference for the latest generation of silicone gel implants,” says Dr. Robert Cohen, a breast augmentation specialist in Santa Monica on his website. “Overall, I would argue that the higher quality of silicone far outweighs the modestly lower cost of saline. If I were to use a saline implant these days, I would choose the Ideal Implant, as it feels more like a silicone implant than regular saline implants.”
That’s because of the Ideal Implant’s unique design, which includes both an outer shell and an inner shell separated by free-floating baffles. The larger the implant, the more baffles.
“They stay in place between the inner and outer shell without attachment because they have the same shape and exactly the same proportions as the shells,” says Hamas in an interview with Allure magazine. “Like nesting Russian dolls.”
The success of the Ideal Implant, like any innovative product, ultimately rests with the consumers — women getting breast augmentation. If they believe the implant compares favorably to the popular cohesive silicone gel implants now available, the Ideal may represent the resurgence of the saline breast implant.