Women are justifiably concerned about the safety of the silicone gel breast implants available today as an option for cosmetic breast augmentation/enhancement and breast reconstruction procedures. Breast implants have been in use for about 50 years. The first pair of silicone gel implants were inserted in 1962, saline implants became available as an alternative option in 1965. Silicone gel implants remained the dominant preferred implant utilized during the thirty years that followed. But in 1992, a moratorium on the use of silicone gel implants was issued by the FDA citing the need for more in depth research and concern over safety issues. Saline implants, fully approved by the FDA, essentially became the only type of implant used by plastic surgeons for breast augmentations and breast reconstructions for the next 10 + years. But after almost 15 years of extensive research and as a result of many changes made in the manufacturing process, the silicone gel breast implants we have in current use received their FDA approval (in 2006). Over 300,000 breast implant operations are performed annually in the USA, with approximately equal numbers of saline and silicone gel implants being placed. About 80% are cosmetic (breast augmentation/enhancement), and 20% are reconstructive (after a mastectomy) in nature. Breast implants are the most commonly used method for the reconstruction of the breast due to surgical removal for breast cancer.
Silica (silicon dioxide) is the most common substance silicone blocks on earth and is the key element comprising sand, crystals and quartz. In the laboratory silica is combined with carbon and linked in long chains (polymers) to create silicone, more properly chemically known as polydimethylsiloxane (or PDMS). Chemical manipulations of the arrangements of the polymer chains can yield different forms of PDMS, as is the case for the silicone implant shell compared to the actual silicone gel inside.
Medical grade silicone has been a part of so many consumer products for so many years that one would probably be able to find some traces of silicone in every person of modern society on earth! Did you know that silicone is used to coat every needle and every syringe used all over the world for medication injections? Silicone also coats the IV catheters and all the internal tubing used for all the IV’s used all over the world every day as well. Silicone is the single active ingredient in Mylicon® (and in some 50+ similar products!) used for years to soothe intestinal gas or bloating problems in both children and adults. Silicone is used to coat the nipples and the liners used for the bottle feeding of infants. Silicone is used in the preparation of a wide variety of processed foods such as McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets and McDonald’s french fries. Silicone is also a very common ingredient used in many skin care products, antiperspirants, soaps, and chewing gum. Very important and widely used prosthetic implants – such as heart valves and artificial joints – rely upon medical grade silicone as a key component in both their construction and lubrication. And it is the feel and characteristics of the silicone in Silly Putty® that makes it such a perennial kid favorite!