Healthcare Technology Featured Article

October 26, 2021

The Modern Implant: a History of How Breast Implants Have Evolved Over Time

Women’s breasts have historically been a symbol of beauty, sensuality, and femininity. Whether it be depicted within famous art, works of fiction, and countless historical texts. So it should come as little surprise that one of the most popular procedures women have done has historically been breast implants, which continues to be true today. Women’s breasts have been a symbol of beauty and femininity in famous art, countless works of fiction, and historical texts. But where did it all begin?

Let’s delve into the history of breast augmentation, and explore how the medical world has evolved and how breast implant recovery, procedures, and materials, have progressed in modern times. 

Starting at the Beginning

Early efforts to augment the breast began in the mid-1890s after a surgeon performed a surgery in which he moved fatty tissue to a patient’s breasts to create better symmetry between them. A year after surgery, the patient reported no tenderness around the operation site, and the reconstruction was still well-formed.

However, not all augmentations were so fortunate, and many early 20th century augmentations from other surgeons saw failure and botchery as injections and implants were made with materials like paraffin, glass, ivory, milk, and silk. These operations were met with many disastrous results and complications, which kept breast implants off the table until the ’60s.

The Advances of the Sixties

The 1960s saw a breakthrough in breast augmentation and implants, as it saw the early creation of both the silicone and saline implants that we know today.

Two doctors created silicone breast implants after remarking how a plastic blood bag felt remarkably similar to a breast. They performed the world’s first silicone breast implant surgery on a 29-year-old woman from Texas. The operation was a success – In fact, she still has them to this day, almost 60 years later.

Shortly after, saline breast implants were invented by a French company called Laboratoires Arion. The creators felt they could create an implant that was minimally invasive, as they would be filled after insertion, and that the sterile saline solution within the shell of the implant would be safe on the body if ruptured.

Modern Implants

Now that multiple methods of implants were created, their popularity boomed. Saline implants especially became prominent in the ’90s, and they boasted shorter recovery times and minimal scarring.

Breast implants are now fully approved by the FDA and are considered a standard procedure by plastic surgeons. Implants come in thousands of shapes, sizes, and models now exist.

One of the most popular modern implants is known as the “gummy bear” implant, named after its soft yet firm texture. 

This type of implant is widely considered the top of the line by modern standards, as it is made with the strongest grade silicone while retaining the realistic feel of breast tissue.

The success of the procedure has also been improved over the decades by modern technologies. Software like imaging programs helps patients and doctors dictate the size and placement of implants, while a modern tool known as the Keller Funnel is used to help safely place implants within the body better than by hand.

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