History of Breast Augmentation

Although the first silicone implants for breast augmentation were invented in the early 1960s, the history of the surgical attempts to enhance the shape or size of the breasts goes back much further than that. Compared to the earliest breast augmentation procedures, today’s surgeries are much safer, with better overall results. Nevertheless, it is interesting to look back at the ways in which surgeons attempted to enhance the female breast.

19th Century

Breast augmentation procedures date back at least as far as the late 19th century. A rather startling variety of items were used as implants. These included such items as ivory balls, glass balls, ground rubber, ox cartilage, polyethylene tape strips wound into a ball, and polyurethane foam sponges, just to name a few. One of the most infamous of these attempts at breast augmentation took place in 1889, when Dr. Robert Gersuny tried using paraffin (wax) implants. Needless to say, none of these attempts were successful, and generally ended in infection and/or hardening of the breast. Other attempts included harvesting fat from the abdomen, buttocks, or thighs. While not as dangerous as some other methods, the fat was eventually reabsorbed into the body, causing the breasts to revert back to their original size.

The first successful attempt at breast augmentation happened in 1895, when Dr. Vincenz Czerny harvested fatty benign tissue from a patient’s breast he had removed in order to rebuild the missing breast.

20th Century

In the mid-1940s, women began to look toward using sponge implants to enhance their breasts. In addition to a high infection rate, there was also the possibility of the sponges shrinking in size or leading to cancer. Perhaps even more startling, there were accounts of Japanese prostitutes injecting industrial-grade silicone into their breasts in an effort to cater to the tastes of American servicemen who preferred women with large breasts. In the United States, thousands of women underwent this procedure. Needless to say, this practice led to granulomas and breast hardening. In some cases, this even led to mastectomy of the affected breast or breasts.

Dow Corning developed the first silicone implant in 1961, which was used in a breast augmentation procedure the following year. The first saline implant came out shortly thereafter, in 1964, and was used in a successful breast augmentation procedure.

Since then, the materials used for the outer shell of the implant have been greatly improved. It is much more sturdy than those first implants, and is also far less prone to leaks or ruptures. They can also now withstand greater differences in temperature than before.

21st Century

Cohesive gel implants were approved for manufacture and sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012. These so-called “gummy bear implants” got their name because of their resemblance in feel to the popular chewy candy. The advantages of these implants are that they more closely follow the natural shape of the breast than do round silicone or saline implants.

Breast implants have certainly come a long way from glass balls or paraffin. They are now safer and more popular than ever before. Contact Marin Aesthetics to schedule a breast augmentation consultation with Dr. Vincent Marin.

About the Author:

Dr. Vince Marin is a San Diego board-certified plastic surgeon specializes in cosmetic surgery of the face, nose, breast and body. If you wish to contact Dr. Marin, write to [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter!