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A Brief History of Breast Augmentation

Posted June 28, 2016 in Blog

Although breast implants have been around for less than 75 years, breast augmentation surgeries have a much longer history – and not all of it is pleasant! We have come a long way.

The first breast augmentation surgery is typically dated to 1895, at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. The doctor, Vincent Czerny, was working with a patient who had just had a large benign tumor removed from one of her breasts – leaving the breast with a radically different size and shape than its partner. Discovering that the patient also had a lipoma, or large fatty deposit, in her hip, the doctor removed the lipoma from her hip and inserted it into the damaged breast to reconstruct it and restore symmetry.

In the 1890s, an Austrian surgeon started championing the use of injected paraffin to enlarge breast size. Unfortunately, the use of paraffin turned out to be ineffective as well as dangerous. The injected paraffin could migrate, causing a large, oddly-shaped lump. It could also cause ulcers or even blindness.

In the 1920s and 1930s, experiments to create safe, stable breast implants involved materials ranging from glass balls to beeswax to Teflon. Silicon was first used widely for breast implants in the 1940s, but the silicon used was rarely sterile, as medical-grade silicon is today. When it was injected with nothing to contain it, the results sometimes led to damage and infection.

The 1950s saw the emergence of implants made of polyvinyl or polyethylene. While these materials didn’t lead to the catastrophic medical effects of paraffin or injected silicon, they also didn’t last long. When they failed, patients often found themselves looking and feeling worse than they had before surgery.

The first silicone and saline implants were developed in the 1960s. The patient who received the first set of silicone implants, Timmie Jean Lindsey, still has them today – in her 80s. After silicone implants were recalled in 1992, saline implants became standard.

In 2006, the FDA approved silicon gel-filled implants designed to avoid the problems that got the earlier silicone implants recalled. Today, if a silicone gel implant breaks, the gel leaks into a reservoir inside the implant – not into the patient’s body. Both silicon gel and saline implants today come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, increasing the possibilities for patients who seek breast augmentation.

For a free, private consultation about your breast augmentation surgery options in Cleveland, please call our team at The Cosmetic Surgery Center at (216) 264-8100.

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