The Early History of Breast Implants
One of the earliest attempts at surgically augmenting the breasts occurred in the late 19th century, when, in 1895, German surgeon Vincenz Czerny transferred a lipoma (a benign fatty lump) to a patient’s breast in order to avoid asymmetry after removing a tumor from her breast.
Later attempts at surgical breast enhancement involved using paraffin wax injections, which were often comprised of petroleum jelly and olive oil. However, this method often caused moderate to serious surgical complications, including inflammation, tissue necrosis and even blindness due to cerebral embolism.
Others tried to implant a host of foreign substances into the breasts to enhance them, including sponges and polyethylene tape wound into balls. Unsurprisingly, these methods did not have favorable outcomes.
Contemporary Breast Implant Surgery
Breast augmentation surgery as we know it originated in the 1960s, when Drs. Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin invented the first silicone breast implants. In 1962, Timmie Jean Lindsey became the first woman to receive the silicone implants.
In the 1980s and ‘90s, the safety of silicone implants came into question, when citizens started claiming that they cause autoimmune disease. After much debate about the safety of silicone implants, and a voluntary moratorium on the distribution of the prosthetic devices, the FDA banned the use of silicone implants in primary breast augmentation surgery, in 1992. (Silicone implants were still available for women undergoing breast reconstruction following mastectomy or lumpectomy for the treatment of breast cancer and for those who needed to replace silicone implants that were placed prior to the ban.) Note: Saline implants continued to be FDA approved for use in breast augmentation.
In 2006, after evaluating the findings of numerous clinical studies conducted to assess the safety of silicone implants, the FDA lifted the ban, concluding that they do not necessarily cause autoimmune diseases. Silicone breast implants were allowed back on the market and remain available today for use in breast augmentation surgery for patients over 22 years old.
Thankfully, breast implant surgery has come a long way since its inception. Patients now have a wide range of breast implant treatment options, including the choice between saline and silicone implants. In fact, breast augmentation surgery is the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure in the United States today and has helped countless women love the look of their breasts.