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I am considering getting my breasts enlarged, and I have some concerns. I know that...

Q:

I am considering getting my breasts enlarged, and I have some concerns. I know that they are using saline now, but I have seen pictures of saline implants that have molded and caused severe illness. I saw a surgeon on a talk show that was discussing soybean oil filled implants. I would like to know if those are available or if it is even an option.

A:

Soybean oil-filled breast implants were removed from the market some years ago. These were only implanted as part of clinical trials, and only a very small number of women in the U.S. participated in the studies. It was found with a much larger number who received the implants in Europe that the oil became rancid and the implants had to be removed. There are no plans, in the future, to bring this implant back to the market.

Saline-filled implants remain safe and effective, FDA-approved devices for breast augmentation. Although some years ago, there were a few reports of mold forming inside saline implants, researchers have concluded that this was due to contamination that occurred at the time of filling the implants. Today we know that implants should be filled directly from an IV bottle containing sterile saline solution. This is done in the operating room at the time of implantation. Utilizing this "closed system," there have been no reported cases of contamination of the saline.

Silicone gel-filled implants are also available on a restricted basis, and through research protocols, for those patients who qualify. The patient must be followed for five years, with reports filled out at one, three and five years and submitted to the implant manufacturer who, in turn, submits them to the FDA. It is possible that silicone gel-filled implants may become more widely available in the future.

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