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A Short History Of Breast Implants And Augmentation

A Short History Of Breast Implants And Augmentation

Breast augmentation is one of the most popular forms of cosmetic surgery, with many women benefiting both aesthetically and emotionally from having their breasts reshaped and resized. The procedure is now more affordable and safer than ever before, making it an accessible form of cosmetic surgery for all women.

Here we will take a look at the history of breast augmentation, and the pioneering doctors who helped make this type of surgery as safe and successful as it is today.

When did breast augmentation surgery first become available?

Whilst it is easy to assume that this is a recent type of surgery, breast augmentation has actually been around for many years. Early examples of breast surgery date right back to the late 1800s and over the years the techniques and materials used have developed considerably.

What materials were used in early implants?

Right from the initial attempts of performing breast enhancement surgery, it was apparent that there was clearly going to be a market for this type of surgery. As a result, doctors were keen to determine what substances could be used to create a safe, realistic and reliable ‘implant’. Many different materials were used in the quest to create successful implants including:

  • Liquids
  • Paraffin
  • Fatty Tissue
  • Plastic
  • Sponges

The first example of the procedure involved injecting fluids containing paraffin into the breasts. This technique resulted in breasts becoming misshapen, lumpy and hard, infections were commonplace and treatments were not always obtainable. Consequently it wasn’t long before the paraffin injection technique was abandoned.

By the 1920s, breast surgery progressed to a technique that involved transferring fatty tissues from elsewhere in the body and placing them inside the breasts. Again, this procedure was not particularly successful as the body’s natural response to the sudden arrival of fat is to break it down which meant people were again left with misshapen breasts.

In a quest to determine the ideal substance for the implant other materials were tried and tested. Plastics and sponges were trialed, with no success, as they often shrank inside the breast and hardened. It wasn’t until the 1960s that silicone breast implants were introduced, which signaled the start of much more successful breast augmentation procedures.

What exactly is silicone?

Silicone itself is a chemical compound, a mixture of silicon, oxygen and carbon. It was invented in Nottingham by university Professor F.S. Kipping in the late 1800s.

When was silicone introduced as an implant substance?

In 1961 Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin, two surgeons from Texas, came upon the idea of using silicon as a material for breast implants. As a result, these two pioneering surgeons are largely responsible for the direction in which breast enlargement and augmentation has progressed in this day and age.

How were these early silicone implants developed?

silicone implant

Gerow and Cronin developed the first generation of silicone implants in conjunction with the Dow Corning Corporation. Initially, the implants were successfully testing on dogs, and then, in 1962 the first enlargement procedure went ahead on a live person. Timmie Jean Lindsey, a housewife and mother from Texas was the guinea pig for the doctors, she opted to undergo breast surgery in exchange for them taking the time to pin back her ears. The implants were regarded as an absolute success, and doctors from all over the world visited Timmie to witness the results of the procedure.

How have silicone implants evolved?

Since Gerow and Cronin’s initial breakthrough in the world of breast reconstruction, the use of silicone breast implants has continued to evolve and develop. Several new generations of silicone implants have been introduced over the decades, with many improvements being made to the design and construction. These improvements include:

  • The silicone itself became more complex in the 1990s, and implants began to contain a thicker gel that kept its shape yet still felt soft.
  • These cohesive (‘gummy bear’) gels also allowed the development of shaped implants. They are nicknamed ‘gummy bears’ as they hold their shape in the same way as the sweet does when sliced in half.
  • Enhancements can now be created using either round or tear-drop shaped implants. This means that different end results can be achieved to suit the frames (and desires) of different women.
  • Implants now have a rougher surface to reduce the risk of hardening.
  • Better, stronger shells have been designed to reduce rupture.

Is silicone the only option for breast implants today?

Saline implants are also used in modern day breast enhancement surgery, and they too have been in development for many years. They were introduced in 1964 as an alternative to silicone implants by Henry Jenny and Laboratoires Arion in France. Jenny actively pursued the idea of developing saline implants as he was not convinced of the safety of silicone implants, despite the research by Gerow and Cronin that deemed silicone as safe for use in the human body and biologically inactive.

What is saline and why would you choose it?

Saline is a mixture of salt and water. Because of its totally natural contents, there less cause for concern should a rupture arise, as the mixture will simply be absorbed by the body.

What is the most popular type of implant?

surgeon tools

Both types of implant are widely used today, and it is generally down to the surgeon and patient’s preference as to what type of implant they choose. Silicone’s thicker cohesive or ‘gummy bear’ breast implants are proving to be increasingly popular as the new design ensures the implants hold their shape well and they are far more resistant to ruptures and leaks.

The majority of implants used across Europe are silicone, whereas many implants used in the USA are saline.

The future of breast augmentation

As the demand for breast augmentation is so high, more and more surgeons are now specialising in this type of surgery. As a result, the procedure is becoming more refined and many of the side effects or complications associated with implants have now been rectified and eradicated.

Due to the very nature of medical science, treatments and procedures constantly progress and evolve. When you consider just how much breast augmentation has developed since Gerow and Cronin’s first prototype back in the sixties, it is inevitable that the construct and success of implants will improve even further over time.

To find out more about breast augmentation procedures by Stephen McCulley, visit the page Breast Augmentation and Enlargement.