Many people believe that teens and young adults these days are growing up in a society that places greater importance on physical appearance than past generations. As a result, there’s a trend toward young adults asking for (and parents giving) breast implants as a high school or college graduation gift.
On the surface, the “limbo” in between high school and college seems like the ideal time for an 18-year-old to schedule and recover from breast augmentation, before she begins her new life at college. When we look deeper, though, are teen breast implants really a good idea?
Choices May Be Limited
For high school graduates, one reality of getting breast implants is that they may not have as many options as older patients. Silicone implants remain the most popular choice for breast augmentation in general. This implant type is only FDA approved in the U.S. for women age 22 and older, although “off-label” of silicone implants for younger women is permitted at the surgeon’s discretion.While saline implants can look great in the right candidate, a woman who has her heart set on silicone may need to wait a few years.
Getting Implants for the Right Reasons
Because of her age and maturity level, a teenage girl may simply think of implants as a quick way to get the body she’d like to have, and may not understand the long-term implications. Breast augmentation is surgery, so there are associated potential risks and complications. I work closely with every patient to determine if she wants implants for the right reasons and if she truly understands the pros and cons of her decision, regardless of her age. The point must be made clear that getting implants is a major commitment, and that’s not a decision that every teen is ready to make.
Even if you’ve already made up your mind that you want silicone breast implants rather than saline, your pre-surgery decision-making process isn’t finished yet. There are two distinct variations within the world of silicone implants, and understanding the differences and advantages of each kind can help you make an informed decision.
Not All Silicone Is Created Equal
Depending on how it’s produced, silicone can vary in its degree of cohesiveness and firmness. Therefore, implants filled with varying types of silicone will look and feel differently in the body. Understanding these distinctions is key to choosing the right implant.
- “Gummy Bear” Implants – The cohesive silicone gel inside shaped or “gummy bear” implants is the firmest option, so that these implants retain their shape. I recommend the gummy bear implant for my patients who are interested in very natural-looking breast augmentation results, because they are shaped like a breast with a teardrop shape, and feel so much like real breast tissue.
- Gel Implants – The silicone used in gel implants has a more fluid consistency and results in a softer, less dense feel to the breast. Rather than more clearly shaping the breast the way gummy bear implants do, traditional round gel implants instead add volume while conforming to the existing breast shape.
A Note on Saline
While I find that most of my patients now prefer silicone implants, saline implants remain available and can offer benefits in the right candidates. For example, I can fill them after insertion, which allows for smaller incisions, and they’re also a more affordable option. Overwhelmingly, though, the majority of breast augmentations I perform use silicone implants instead.
My priority in all my surgeries is to ensure a positive and supportive experience for my patients, and this is especially true for breast reconstruction. Part of creating a compassionate environment involves taking steps to promote a faster, more comfortable recovery. According to recent research from the Mayo Clinic, a new approach toward surgery and recovery called an enhanced recovery pathway (ERP) may take this philosophy even further.
Changing the Norms
First used in Denmark over a decade ago, the idea behind ERP is to start thinking about the recovery process before the surgery even begins. One of the primary ways ERP differs from traditional surgery is by improving patients’ health before entering the operating room so that their bodies are better prepared for the procedure. This can include bypassing traditional pre-surgical fasting, issuing preemptive anti-nausea medication in anticipation of the side effects of anesthesia and also encouraging patients to take ibuprofen or similar over-the-counter medications to diminish the body’s pain response in advance of surgery. After surgery, patients are encouraged to eat, drink and walk much sooner, and the need for post-op opiates is greatly reduced.
This combination of factors helps reduce postoperative stress on the body, allowing for a stronger healing response after surgery and a faster, more comfortable recovery using over-the-counter medications rather than stronger painkillers.
When applied specifically to breast reconstruction surgery, ERP patients at the Mayo Clinic rated their pain in the 0-4 range on a scale of 1-10; previously those numbers were between 6 to 8. Effective pain management and a more comfortable recovery process is a significant goal in every breast reconstruction I perform, and I look forward to implementing more steps to improve outcomes in this area.