silicone breast implants have a higher lifetime cost than saline

Silicone Breast Implants Cost More Now - and Later

Now that the food and drug administration has declared them safe (with conditions), women are free to choose silicone implants over saline.

will women factor in the long-term higher costs of silicone when choosing between them and saline breast implants?

Silicone Breast Augmentation Costs More

Any discussion of breast augmentation costs has to begin with the cost of the actual implants. The only true fixed cost in a breast augmentation procedure is the cost of the implant itself.

Silicone implants cost $800-$950, while saline implants cost $450-$625, depending on type and maker.

That's just the first higher cost of silicone implants.

Not including the implants higher cost, the implant procedure itself costs more.

According to data from, total cost of most breast augmentation procedures in the United States ranges from
$4000-$8000 for saline implants
to $6000-$10,000 for silicone implants.

silicone breast implants may prove to be
as safe as saline implants
but they cost more, from start to finish....

FDA Approval and Age Restriction of Silicone Implants
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved (2006) silicone gel-filled breast implants after an extensive safety study.

The study concluded that silicone implants are safe and effective, and may be offered for breast reconstruction in women of all ages, and for breast augmentation in women ages 22 and older. 

Leakage Risk and Costs After Augmentation
In spite of its conclusion that silicone implants are safe, the FDA recommends regular MRI screenings. A response to a troubling fact of silicone implants - women with ruptured implants don't always know they're leaking.

When saline implants leak, the saline solution flows out and is absorbed into a woman's body. The rupture is obvious. The implant deflates.

The rupture of a silicone implant may go undetected because silicone is heavy and viscous. Worst case, the silicone oozes out slowly and fills the flesh capsule surrounding the implant.

With the newer "gummy bear" implants, it may be next to impossible to know whether the implant shell has been breached, even if the thick gel has extruded from the implant.

Leaking silicone from a broken implant may migrate to other areas in the body. According to several online sources, silicone has been found in lymph nodes in women with silicone implants.

The MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) examinations are non-invasive and are the best means of detecting silicone leakage. A woman's first MRI should occur three years after her initial implant surgery, with followups every two years thereafter.

MRI Lifetime Costs Exceed The Costs of the Implants Procedure
If a 37 year-old woman has silicone implants and lives to age 74, and keeps to the recommended schedule, her lifetime breast MRI expenses will be $20,700 - assuming that the cost of an MRI is $1150 (a very conservative estimate) and remains $1150 (unlikely) throughout her lifetime.

If the silicone implants were cosmetic, rather than reconstructive (ie, after mastectomy) It is almost certain that the MRI expense will not be covered by medical insurance.

Even if your physician directs you to have an MRI for a medical reason that is not related to your implants, you may find that it is denied as a legitimate expense because you have had implants, as a Minnesota woman discovered earlier this year. In the news report of her denial of coverage, it was not specified if her implants were saline or silicone.

Paying for Breast Augmentation Replacement

When an implant is discovered to have ruptured, the implant must be replaced.

Implants makers generally warranty implants for 10 years after the original augmentation procedure. If they deflate during that period, the implants are replaced at no cost to the patient.

The surgeon may elect to provide the replacement procedure for free or for a reduced fee. After 10 years, many surgeons perform implants replacement at a reduced cost. Often, this is less than half the cost of a first-time implants procedure.

Breast implant replacement surgery usually has a much quicker recovery time than the initial implant surgery.

Higher Health Insurance Premiums?
An online survey of 2854 women with breast implants (sponsored by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery) asked the women whether they had any issues in obtaining health insurance after their breast surgery. It also asked if they encountered raised premiums or other penalties as a result of their choice to have implants.

91% of the respondents answering reported they had health insurance before their breast implant procedure.

13% of respondents answering applied for new health insurace after having breast implants. Of these, 91% obtained it (there's no data on why the remaining 9% did not).

5% of the women were charged a premium because they had breast implants.

19% of the woman had an exclusion of their breasts (for at least two years) written into their policies. The exclusion was not limited to implants-related issues.

Although the exact terms for each of these policy exclusions can't be known, the implications are stunning. It means that even if the breast disease or condition is found not to be implants related, the insurer has grounds to deny coverage of costs.


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