Breast Implants 50 Years Later

Fifty years ago, the first silicone breast implants were placed in a Texan housewife and since then, millions of women have followed suite in the quest for a better, bigger bust. Now breast augmentation is the second most requested invasive cosmetic procedure in America, after liposuction. What was first an experimental surgery at the Jefferson Davis hospital in Houston, is now an art and science performed by thousands of skilled plastic surgeons across the country.

While Timmie Jean Lindsey was the first woman to receive a pair of silicone implants, the longing for a bigger, fuller chest has had a long history. In the 1890s, paraffin was injected into the breasts. In the 20s and 30s, doctors tried fat transfers, and throughout the 1950s, cartilage, sponges, and even wood were all used to enhance a woman's breasts, according to the book Inventing Beauty by the New York Times invention columnist Teresa Riordan.

So how have silicone implants changed since 1962? There have been many advances over the decades. There are now three different FDA-approved gel implants on the market in hundreds of shapes and sizes, though most doctors recommend saline implants for their patients according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). Plus, 3D-imaging now helps patients see what they will look like with implants before surgery, while silicone varieties have become increasingly rupture-proof-all good news for the 300,000 procedures which will likley be performed this year based off of the previous years stats from ASAPS.

What will the next 50 years of breast implants look like? Only the future will truly tell. On the horizon, however, the recent approval of a form-stable silicone option is changing the dynamic of breast augmentation. Plastic surgeons are now going from filling the breast envelop to being able to shape it with a form-stable implant. Breast augmentation now can be customized for every woman, based on her measurements and preferences, says Eugene, OR, plastic surgeon Mark L. Jewell, MD.

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