The statistics are in. 2012 is officially the year of the silicone breast implant.
Every year the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) publishes annual cosmetic surgery statistics from the year before. The numbers released on Tuesday, March 12th reveal that breast augmentation is the most popular cosmetic surgery in the United States. In 2012, 0ver 330,000 women underwent this procedure. Of these patients, 72% chose silicone gel breast implants and 28% selected saline-filled implants. The number of women choosing silicone has skyrocketed since the FDA lifted the moratorium on these implants in November, 2006.
So what will 2013 bring?
This February the FDA approved the Allergan 410 form-stable, shaped breast implant for general cosmetic use. This implant, also known as the "Gummy Bear Implant," is considered by many plastic surgeons to be superior due to its firm composition. It literally feels like a gummy bear. Plastic surgeons and patients have been waiting over ten years for this implant to be approved. I suspect that the number of women undergoing surgery with these implants will boom in 2013.
What else is on the horizon?
Even though all the major scientific studies show no connection between silicone breast implants and connective tissue diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, many women are still afraid of them. If you Google "silicone breast implants and autoimmune disease," you'll find a plethora of people who claim their silicone breast implants made them sick. Because of this, even though silicone implants are superior cosmetically, a large number of women are still choosing saline over silicone.
A fascinating implant currently in the FDA approval process is the Ideal Implant. Devised by a plastic surgeon, this saline implant contains internal chambers that allow the salt water inside to flow more evenly with movement. This appears to lessen the wrinkling and rippling that is the major complaint with the current saline implants. Experts claim the Ideal Implant looks and feels like a silicone implant, even though it's filled with saline. After examining one of these, I tend to agree.
So I predict that 2014 will herald the rise of the Ideal Implant for women who want their breasts to look and feel natural, but are afraid of silicone.
So what about ten years from now? Will plastic surgeons still be stuffing bags of silicone or salt water into women's breasts to make them look bigger?
I doubt it. The future of breast enhancement is two words: Stem Cells.
Stem cells are very immature cells that can theoretically differentiate into the cells of the organ they are implanted into. The general idea is that stem cells may eventually be used to regrow organs that have been damaged. Because of this, the application of stem cells for cancer patients has the potential to revolutionize their treatment in ways we never before dreamed. In the future, the hope is that a woman may undergo a mastectomy for breast cancer, and stem cells taken from her fat could be used to regrow a normal, non-cancerous breast. And if we can grow a new breast, then I imagine that it would be even easier to use stem cells to enhance and augment a breast that's already present.
But technology is by no means there, yet. So if you're thinking about breast enhancement now, your options are silicone, saline, or gummy bear. In a few months, we may have the Ideal Implant. And if you really don't mind waiting, then stem cells may be in your future.
Just make sure you keep a little fat on your thighs, just in case.
For more on the ASAPS 2012 plastic surgery statistics, visit the site here.