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The History of Silicone Breast Implants

Posted February 28, 2014 in Breast Augmentation, Plastic Surgery

Breast implants are prosthetic devices insertedTwo-women-laying-on-beach beneath the tissue in the breast area, and they are generally made of either silicone or saline. Breast augmentation surgery is often performed with breast implants to improve the size and shape of the breasts. Silicone implants are made of an elastomer silicone shell filled with viscous silicone gel, and this type of implant has changed throughout the years since its conception.


In 1961 plastic surgeons Thomas Cronin and Frank Gerow developed the first silicone breast implant, and the first breast augmentation procedure with this type of implant was performed in 1962.


In this decade, manufacturers tried to improve the first implant model by making the outer shell thinner and the cohesion of the silicone gel lower. Unfortunately, this new implant model was fragile and resulted in higher occurrences of implant rupture and capsular contracture.

After this first failed attempt, manufacturers in the ’70s tried to improve the durability of their new implant model by applying a polyurethane foam coating to the outer shell of the implant. Although the incidence of capsular contracture was reduced, these implants were temporarily discontinued because of a carcinogenic by-product of the chemical breakdown of polyurethane. After evaluation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revealed that the risk of breast cancer from this carcinogenic was immeasurably small. Although this type of implant is not currently FDA approved, it continues to be used in plastic surgery practices in South America and Europe.

The third development for the silicone breast implant in the ’70s was the double lumen. This implant was composed of a silicone breast implant within a saline breast implant so that the size of the implant could be adjusted after it was inserted into the breast. The double-lumen implant design was complex, and the rate of device-failure was higher than the traditional single cavity implants of the time.


The “Becker Expandable” model was presented in 1984 and improved upon the design of the double lumen from the ’70s. This implant is commonly used for breast reconstruction.

This decade also saw improvements in manufacturing technology, and breast implants with  elastomer-coated shells and thicker silicone gel within the implants were developed, which decreased the incidence of silicone gel leakage. Manufacturers also developed round, tapered, and anatomically shaped implants with different textures of implant shells to reduce the chances of the implants rotating within the breast pocket.


In the mid-1990s, a silicone implant made of a semi-solid gel was presented, and this model almost completely eradicated the incidence of silicone gel leakage and migration outside of the implant pocket. Studies have shown that these devices have low occurrences of capsular contracture (hardening of the implant pocket) and implant rupture.

2000s – 2010s

Over the last couple of decades, implant manufacturing companies have developed different models of silicone breast implants with varieties of shapes, textures, and gel thicknesses. Silicone gel-filled breast implants are approved for breast augmentation in patients who are 22 years of age or older. Click here for the complete list of FDA-approved silicone gel-filled breast implants.

Over the years, breast augmentation techniques and devices have progressed to become safer and more effective, and countless women have experienced improved confidence after undergoing breast augmentation surgery.

If you are considering breast augmentation in New York, please call (716) 631-1220 or fill out our “quick contact” form today to schedule your consultation. Dr. Koch has the experience and skills needed to provide you with excellent breast augmentation results.