Breast Implant Options

breast implant options

For women undergoing breast augmentation, one of the most important decisions they’ll need to make is which breast implant to use. There are two general types of breast implants: saline breast implants and silicone gel breast implants. Both are made of an outer medical-grade silicone shell, but where they differ is the substance that is inside the implant. Saline implants have a silicone shell that is filled with a sterile saltwater solution once the implant is placed in the breast, while silicone implants come pre-filled with a thicker silicone gel. Both implants offer options in shapes, sizes and textures, and each has its own benefits.

Houston breast implant surgeon Dr. Ciaravino uses both saline and silicone gel implants with great success. Scheduling a consultation with Dr. Ciaravino is the best way to determine whether or not breast augmentation is right for you. During your consultation, he will evaluate your health history, assess your existing breast tissue, listen to your concerns and consider your breast augmentation goals to help you determine which implant is best for you. The information listed here can also give you a general understanding of the implant options available to you and how implants can transform your breasts into the size and shape you desire.


Saline and silicone breast implants were both developed in the 1960s. Because of their natural look and feel, silicone soon became the implant of choice for millions of women. However, in 1992 the Food and Drug Administration restricted the use of silicone implants to investigate the safety of these devices. After two decades of intense study and research, the FDA declared silicone gel breast implants safe and approved their use in the United States for patients 22 years of age and older. This is excellent news for patients and plastic surgeons who again have a wider choice of implants.

memory gel breast implants

Look and Feel

Both saline and silicone gel breast implants have an exterior made of silicone gel. But the material inside the implants is what gives a different look and feel to the breast implant.

Saline breast implants are filled with sterile saline (salt water). In comparison, silicone gel breast implants are filled with a silicone gel. Think of how a water balloon feels in comparison to a gummy candy—water is fluid and flows in the balloon, whereas gummy candy sticks together and is springy. Because a saline implant is made of water, it can feel less like real breast tissue. Although rare, saline implants can also appear rippled in thin patients or those who have little natural breast tissue. Silicone gel, on the other hand, is the consistency of fat and therefore silicone gel implants feel and look closer to natural breast tissue. Saline breast implants give a uniform shape and firmness. However, they can appear rounder and more visible in the upper portion of the breast, giving them an unusually high and unnatural look. For some patients, this may be the look they desire, whereas other patients may prefer a more natural sloping breast. How the implants look will depend on each patient, as well as their goals. Over the years, Dr. Ciaravino has created thousands of beautiful breast contours using saline implants, and they continue to be a large part of his breast augmentation practice today.

Silicone gel breast implants look and feel more natural due to silicone gel’s thick, cohesive material that moves and feels like real breast tissue. Silicone implants are lighter and give the breast a more natural-looking slope. They are preferred over saline implants if you decide to have them placed on top of the pectoral muscle instead of underneath. In addition, Dr. Ciaravino often recommends silicone implants to women who are seeking the softest, most realistic breasts, especially if the patients are very thin.


Scarring is a concern for most of our patients, but rest assured that you are in great hands under the care of Dr. Ciaravino. He will determine the optimal incision site for to correctly place the implant, as well as to limit scarring.

Saline breast implants are placed into the body empty and then filled to the desired fullness. Because of this, saline breast implants can fit through extremely small incisions (less than one inch in length). In addition, because saline implants are unfilled and therefore smaller before being inserted, there are more incision placement choices. Traditional incision sites near the armpit or on the underside of the breast can be used to place saline implants. But other insertion sites, such as the border of the areola (the pigmented skin around the nipple of the breast) or even the belly button, can be used to hide incisions and decrease scarring.

Because of the size difference of saline and silicone implants, they require different incision sizes and placement. Because the silicone gel implant comes from the manufacturer pre-filled, traditionally a larger incision is required. However, with his many years of experience, Dr. Ciaravino has created his own safe and highly effective technique for minimizing the length of the incision needed.

Dr. Ciaravino’s breast augmentation technique is extremely gentle and precise. He uses much smaller incisions than you would find elsewhere, and special instruments which allow for accurate implant placement. With his technique, patients can achieve beautiful breasts with an easy, comfortable recovery. Most patients have no bruising and there are no bandages or sutures to remove, drastically minimizing potential scarring. Patients LOVE it.


In a saline breast implant, salt water is filled into the implant after the implant is placed in the breast, unlike silicone breast implants that come pre-filled from the manufacturer. Having the ability to adjust the volume of saline implants is a benefit to patients who have breast asymmetry because each implant can be filled differently to equalize size differences between the two breasts. Silicone implants in different sizes can also help balance asymmetry, depending on the degree of correction needed.


On average, silicone implants cost twice as much as saline implants. Note that many factors determine the price of a procedure, so Dr. Ciaravino will review the costs associated with saline and silicone implants and help you weigh the cost against the benefits of each.

Leaks and Ruptures

The risk of a leak or rupture is low for both saline and silicone breast implants. However, detecting a leak or rupture is different for each implant. A leak in a saline implant is easily detectable because the implant will deflate, making the breast appear smaller. A saline implant leak doesn’t pose a threat to your health because the saline is made of a saltwater solution that is similar to regular body fluid. Your body will easily absorb the saline that is leaked out of the implant.

A leak or rupture in a silicone implant is sometimes called a “silent rupture” because the silicone gel stays in the implant area and doesn’t migrate to other parts of the body. Because there isn’t a visible deflation of the breast, you do not have any way of knowing that a rupture has occurred. Eventually, a rupture in a silicone implant can cause changes in the shape of the implant or breast pain. For patients with silicone gel breast implants, an MRI is recommended every two years to check for ruptures and ensure that your implants are functioning properly.

Breast Health

Saline and silicone implants do not increase your risk of breast cancer. However, screening for breast cancer can be tricky with either implant. The x-rays used in mammography cannot penetrate saline or silicone implants adequately to detect tumors or cancer. In addition, both implants can conceal breast tissue, making it difficult to see the entire breast with mammography. Often a 3D mammogram is recommended for patients with breast implants because 3D mammography takes one-millimeter slices of the breast, providing smaller and more detailed images of the breast tissue. MRI and ultrasound can also be used to screen for breast cancer.


Saline and silicone breast implants have similar risks that are primarily associated with surgery and not the actual implants. Possible risks include:

  • Pain in the breast
  • Infection at the incision site
  • Temporary loss of feeling in the nipple or breast
  • The development of scar tissue that can alter the shape and position of the implant (called capsular contracture)
  • Rupture or leak of the implant

Some patients chose saline implants because they believe the salt water solution is safer than silicone gel. While there has been much debate over the safety of silicone gel implants, extensive research has shown them to be as safe as saline breast implants. Dr. Ciaravino uses a new generation of silicone gel implants made by Mentor and Allergan Corporation that are far superior to those used in the past. These implants have a proven track record of safety.

Dr. Ciaravino has used both saline and silicone gel breast implants to provide his patients voluptuous, beautifully proportioned breasts. He will use his experience and expertise to help you evaluate the pros and cons of saline and silicone gel implants and will help you make the right choice to achieve the breasts of your dreams. If you would like more information on the breast implant options available to you in the Houston and Sugarland, Texas area, please contact Ciaravino Total Beauty at 713-627-1200 to schedule a consultation.