After widespread use in Europe since 1995, in Canada since 2000, and other countries for several years, these fifth-generation semi-solid “gummy bear” implants are now available in the U.S. by three manufacturers: Mentor (MemoryShape), Allergan (Natrelle 410) and Sientra (Silimed).
Gummy bear implants offer several advantages over saline and earlier-generation counterparts:
- Cohesive gel does not shift as other implant fillers do, so wrinkles and ripples (more of a problem with saline implants), and folds that often cause implant leaks are less likely to develop. This not only improves appearance, but limits friction and tension that may weaken the outer shell. Some experts expect cohesive silicone gel breast implants to last longer than other types of breast implants.
- Although long-term data is not yet available, gummy bear breast implants are believed to reduce the rate of capsular contracture (the most common problem and source of reoperation with other breast implants).
Gummy bear breast implants may be an improvement over older models, yet despite a high rate of patient satisfaction and reported lower problem rate, they are still subject to problems that are inherent to all implants:
- Gummy bear breast implants are more expensive.
- Like other types of breast implants, gummy bears are not lifetime devices and need to be replaced soon or later.
- Not all surgeons provide gummy bear implants.
- Semi-solid gummy bear implants cannot be pushed through small incisions as saline and non-cohesive silicone gel breast implants can, and require larger incisions.
- The risk of rupture, although reduced with highly cohesive silicone gel implants, is not eliminated. The FDA recommends MRI screenings beginning three years after the implant is placed and every two years after that to detect “silent” rupture.
- Infection anytime after placement surgery may occur.
- Many women report that highly cohesive silicone gel implants feel firmer and less natural than earlier silicone implants.
- Gummy bear breast implants require a perfectly-sized submuscular pocket to avoid rotation that could lead to breast distortion.
- Women who prefer more projection or fullness at the top of their reconstructed breasts may better served with round implants.
- Long-term study data (10 years or more) is not yet available.
So are highly cohesive silicone breast implants really better? That remains to be seen, and like most things in life, it depends on personal choice. Gummies may not be right for all women, but they do add another choice to the implant menu.