By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Cosmetic surgery declined in 2020 with one major exception: butt implants. While a “butt lift” raises and tightens a patient’s rear end, an implant gives the same area volume. Butt and breast implants are silicone-based.
Whether due to increased sitting time or social media envy, 22% more people sought out cosmetic surgery for butt implants in 2020 than in 2019, according to an article on Bloomberg. Additionally, hair transplants saw the steepest decline—down by 60% from the previous year—while breast implant removals increased by 8%.
While breast implants are often done as reconstructive surgery after dealing with breast cancer, like butt implants, they are performed as cosmetic surgery. For whatever reason someone gets a butt or breast implant, what types of materials are in them and what is the procedure? In his video series The Nature of Matter: Understanding the Physical World, Dr. David W. Ball, Professor of Chemistry at Cleveland State University in Ohio, explained both.
Silicone, Not Silicon
Breast and butt implants are both filled silicone sacs. Dr. Ball was quick to point out the difference between silicone and silicon. Silicon, without an “e” at the end, is an element of matter that’s a metalloid.
“Silicones are mixed silicon oxygen organic group polymers,” Dr. Ball said. “They have a chain of alternating silicon and oxygen atoms, with two additional carbon-containing groups bonded to the silicon atoms in the chain. The properties of the silicone depend on the identity or identities of the carbon-containing groups on the chain.”
Earlier breast implants were made of a patient’s fat tissue, paraffin wax, rubber inserts, and plastic sponges. Modern breast implants, which are silicone sacs full of saline or a liquid silicone, were developed in the 1960s. In the past, the sacs were sometimes filled with oil or tiny beads of plastic.
“The saline that’s used is a 0.9% solution of sodium chloride—normal table salt in sterile water,” Dr. Ball said. “This type of solution is called normal saline and has the same approximate salt concentration as blood.”
A Relatively Minor Procedure
Regardless of which materials are used for a breast implant, the procedure involves making an incision and placing the implant in the chest. When using a saline-filled silicone sac, a smaller incision is made because the sac can be inserted while empty and filled afterward. Silicone-based implants require a larger incision because they must be filled beforehand. Also, there are risks involved with having an implant.
“One of the biggest potential problems with breast implants is the possible leakage of the saline or silicone from a broken sac, which, eventually, completely deflates,” Dr. Ball said. “In the case of saline implants, the body simply absorbs the saline, but the recipient loses the effect of the implant and usually more surgery is needed to remove [the sac], or, if desired, [it’s needed to] replace the original implant.
“If a silicone implant ruptures, the implant doesn’t deflate like saline implants do, but the silicone filler can leak into the surrounding tissues.”
Silicones are biologically inert, but the immune system would react to the silicone in the same way it would any other inert foreign object, like a splinter. In this case, Dr. Ball said, it would send a type of white blood cell called a macrophage to attack the silicone. Several macrophages create a lump called a granuloma, which may lead to enlarged lymph nodes in the area.
Neither breast nor butt implants are completely without risk. Consult a physician before considering either.