Have you ever wondered how breast augmentation evolved?
Read on below to find out, in this insightful guest post contributed by The Cosmetic Surgery Clinic in the UK.
Breast Implants – A History
Breast augmentation is not only about getting implants – patients undergo breast reductions as well as enlargements, with common reasons ranging from backache to fears about breast cancer, to purely cosmetic concerns.
Modern-day techniques are minimally invasive, allowing implants to be put in place safely, while reductions are also carried out with the aim of leaving minimal scarring behind, even in complicated procedures where large amounts of tissue are removed and the nipple repositioned.
Whether you are having an enlargement or a reduction, centuries of progress are behind the approach taken by your surgeon – and breast augmentation has made rapid progress in the past 50 years alone.
While forms of plastic surgery have been around for centuries, and breast implants made of sponge and other materials had already been attempted, it wasn’t until 1962 that the first silicone implants were devised by Texan doctors Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin.
Timmie Jean Lindsey became the first human recipient – and made headlines again 50 years later when, at the age of 80, she appeared in newspapers around the world to comment on the 50th anniversary of silicone implants.
Lindsey was pictured within weeks of her operation and, while the images are low-resolution, they demonstrate that her healing process had seemingly taken about two months to complete.
In the 1970s, mass-production of breast implants gathered speed, and new alternatives were introduced – including attempts at creating inflatable implants.
However, it was progress in silicone implants that led the industry throughout the decade, with much softer outer casings better mimicking real breast tissue.
A landmark event in the UK occurred in 1979, with the first meeting of the British Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, which became BAAPS (the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons) in 1982.
Safety became a key concern in the 1980s amidst claims that silicone implants could cause health problems. Leakage of the silicone gel through the thin walls of the implants used at the time was linked with cancer in animals, but no equivalent risk was found in humans, and by the end of the decade new implants with thicker walls were being introduced.
Regulations in the US dominated the decade, as the FDA announced a voluntary moratorium on the use of silicone implants in January 1992, until further safety investigations had been carried out.
From July 1992, silicone implants were approved for reconstruction work, while June 1998 saw approval given for limited augmentation work with silicone implants.
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), 101,176 breast augmentations were carried out in 1997 – remember that figure, as we’ll be coming back to it later.
By the end of the decade, breast augmentation was by far the most popular form of cosmetic surgery, but ASAPS figures show that it has its rivals.
From 101,176 breast augmentations carried out in the US in 1997, the figure rose to 316,848 in 2011 – but for the first time in three years, liposuction ranked as the top US cosmetic surgical procedure, with 325,332 individual procedures carried out.
In the UK, breast augmentation also rose at the end of the decade, by 10% in 2010 alone, with 9,418 procedures carried out according to the BAAPS annual audit – and breast reductions ranked as the second-most popular male plastic surgery procedure.
Today there are all sorts of breast augmentation procedures carried out on a daily basis – from simple implants or reductions, to mastopexy (breast uplift surgery) which restores a more youthful appearance, and male reductions to tackle gynaecomastia.
Professional organisations such as BAAPS exist to ensure standards are upheld – and are as likely to be seen campaigning against unsafe procedures as they are to be championing the latest innovation.
While there is no set price for breast implants or augmentation surgery – which is decided on a case-by-case basis – the NHS will rarely fund such treatments without clear health reasons, and private surgery costs around $6,000 in the USA and £4,000 in the UK.
Breast augmentation is here to stay, whether carried out on the NHS for purely health-related reasons, or privately for cosmetic purposes – and in both instances, there is a real commitment to patient care and to providing implants that can remain in place for many years to come.