Breast augmentation is more popular today than ever before. However, the desire to increase or enhance the size of the breasts is not a new concept. The first attempt at breast augmentation has been traced to the late 19th century when paraffin was used. Paraffin–used in such things as fuel, candle making, and other waxes–caused infections and the formation of lumps in the breast tissue. Still, it wasn’t until the 1920s that the paraffin procedure was given up. By then doctors were attempting to enlarge the breasts with fat transfers from other parts of the body. Unfortunately for those women in the ‘20s, the fat was reabsorbed into the body and left the breasts misshapen and asymmetrical. This practice lasted into the 1940s.

One interesting aspect from the 1940s is that Japanese women began injecting their breasts with silicone filler in an attempt to attract American soldiers, believing the soldiers preferred women with larger breasts. This type of silicone injection was used in the 1960s by exotic dancers in the U.S. However, complications including infection were the end result of this type of breast augmentation.

In the 1950s, another attempt was made at breast augmentation through the use of polyvinyl sponges. Polyvinyl is a synthetic material used in many different applications due to its chemical makeup. Polyvinyl sponges inserted into the breast were linked to hardening and shrinking, as well as causing infections. There was also a link made between using polyvinyl sponges in breast augmentation and cancer.

It wasn’t until 1961 that plastic surgeons Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin created the first silicone breast implant with a direct link to the silicone breast implants used today. The original silicone breast implant had a tear drop shaped silicone rubber envelope filled with thick silicone gel. A few years later, the saline breast implant was manufactured in France. The saline breast implant was created so that it could be placed with a smaller incision than those needed to place silicone breast implants.

Over several generations of silicone breast implants, improvements were made to both the shell and the silicone gel inside. However, in the early 1990s, questions arose as to the safety of silicone in the event of a rupture. The Food and Drug Administration could find no link between illness being caused by silicone, but saline filled breast implants were the only type available in the U.S. during the late 20th and early 21st century.

Silicone gel breast implants were still available in most other parts of the world during this time. It wasn’t until 2006 that silicone breast implants were given a clean slate by the FDA. The silicone breast implants now used are a new type of breast implant with better cohesive gel and a much better shell.

The evolution of breast augmentation and the types of breast implants being used continues. This type of plastic surgical procedure is safer today than ever, and board-certified plastic surgeons have the training and skills for a happy outcome.

If you would like to discuss breast augmentation and are in the Phoenix or Glendale, Arizona area, please contact experienced plastic surgeon Dr. Paul Angelchik for an initial consultation.

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