Breast augmentation has become one of the most commonly performed plastic surgical procedures across the world. Many women turn to plastic surgeons to enhance the size of their breasts or restore the breast volume that may have been lost following pregnancy or weight loss. Today breast enlargement procedures are performed using silicone or saline implants. However, in the past other materials were tried.
First breast augmentation was performed using paraffin injection in 1890. This procedure resulted in infections and formation of lumps and thus lost its popularity.
Fat transfer from the abdominal or buttock area to the breasts was attempted in 1920.
Not all of the transplanted fat survived. As some fat went away, breast asymmetry and lumps resulted. Even though this procedure did not gain a wide acceptance at that time, recently some surgeons were able to produce more predictable results with fat transplant.
However, concerns remain whether cancer detection may be obscured with transplanted fat.
In 1960 silicone was introduced for breast augmentation. Initially this was done in the form of silicone injections. The injections resulted in chronic inflammatory lumps called granulomas. Silicone migrated to other parts of the body in some patients. Today silicone injections are FDA approved for breast augmentation. Some physicians or non-physicians still performed silicone injection for breast augmentation, typically outside of the US.
In the mid 1900s polyvinyl sponges were used for breast augmentation. These synthetic sponges hardened producing a hard breast. Additionally, sponge infections and possible link to cancer caused this procedure to be abandoned. Another unsuccessful material for breast augmentation was soybean oil. Soybean oil implants produced toxic and rancid byproducts and therefore were not approved.
In the 1960s silicone breast implants gained a wide popularity for breast augmentation as they resulted in soft feeling augmented breasts. Due to concerns that
silicone implants may cause cancer, FDA banned the use of silicone implants for cosmetic breast augmentation but permitted their use for reconstructive purposes through clinical trials. Recently, silicone implants became FDA approved for cosmetic breast enhancement as studies have confirmed their safety.
Today saline filled and silicone gel breast implants are FDA approved for breast augmentation. Recent studies in the US show that the new silicone breast implants
have similar complication rate to saline filled breast implants. The new generation of silicone implants are less likely to leak and form capsular contracture than the first generation. Gummy bear breast implants are currently under investigation and will likely gain FDA approval in the near future.