Breast implants: Overview

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About breast implants

Breast implants are medical devices used to:

  • increase breast size (breast augmentation)
  • modify or adjust breast unevenness or appearance
  • reconstruct breasts after a surgical procedure such as a mastectomy (breast removal)
  • replace existing implants

Types of breast implants

There are different types of implants. You should talk to your health care provider (doctor or surgeon) about:

  • the type of implant that is best for you
  • if you have implants but don't know which type you have

Breast implants have shells made of silicone. These shells can have either a smooth or a textured surface. Textured implants can have either a slightly textured (micro-textured) or a highly textured (macro-textured) surface.

Breast implants may be filled with either a saline solution (sterile salt water) or a silicone gel.

Saline-filled breast implants

Smooth or textured saline breast implants are filled with a saline solution. There are 2 kinds of saline implants:

  • an implant containing the total amount of saline (the saline is pre-filled before implantation)
  • a shell that is inserted into the body and then filled to its desired volume with saline fluid

Silicone gel-filled breast implants

Smooth or textured silicone breast implants are filled with a silicone gel. They can vary in firmness and may have a different feel than saline implants.

Combination gel-saline expander breast implants

Gel-saline expander breast implants consist of 2 envelopes. One envelope is pre-filled with silicone gel and the other envelope is unfilled at the time of implantation. This second envelope is filled with saline over time until the final fill volume is achieved.

Breast implants in Canada

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All breast implants sold in Canada undergo a scientific review for safety and effectiveness before Health Canada issues a medical device licence.

You can verify if a breast implant is licensed by:

There are 3 manufacturers that sell breast implants in Canada:

  • Allergan Inc.
    • makes smooth silicone shell implants filled with saline or silicone gel
      • Allergan's medical device licences for its macro-textured breast implants were suspended in May 2019 and the devices are no longer sold as of July 2019
  • Mentor (Johnson & Johnson Medical Products, a division of J & J Inc.)
    • makes smooth or micro-textured silicone shell implants filled with saline or silicone gel
  • Sientra Inc.
    • makes smooth silicone shell implants filled with silicone gel

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