The Rise and Rise of Breast Augmentation

Breast augmentation continues to dominate the aesthetics industry as the world’s most popular procedure. But how did breast augmentation get to where it is today, and is it here to stay?

According to the 2017 annual Global Aesthetic Survey, produced by The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), breast augmentation was once again the world’s most popular cosmetic procedure, with a staggering 1,677,320 procedures carried out in the 12-month period.

Higher levels of self-confidence and an increase in body confidence are two of the main reasons many female patients seek out the procedure. These positive outcomes keep fueling the popularity of the treatment, making it the most desired cosmetic surgery procedure.

But what makes breast best? Here, we take a look at the history of breast enhancement.

From steel balls to foam sponges

The first recorded surgical examples of breast augmentation date back to 1889 when surgeon Dr Robert Gersuny used paraffin wax to enhance the breasts. However, this was unsuccessful and left the breasts hard and lumpy. Even more alarming, patients were susceptible to infections and paraffinomas, which had been linked with cancer.

What was at the time considered to be the first successful case of breast reconstruction occurred in 1895, when Dr Vincenz Czerney treated a woman who had undergone a full mastectomy. Dr Czerney transplanted a large, benign, fatty lump from the patient’s side to her chest. But, as is now known to be the case with fat transfer, the lipoma was eventually reabsorbed back into the body.

Breast augmentation became more experimental in the early 20th century, with a number of somewhat debatable materials being used as implants. These ranged from ivory, glass or steel balls, to ground rubber or foam sponges. Side effects from these botched surgeries were horrendous, including infections, severe scarring, pulmonary embolisms, liver problems, comas, and even death.

Silicone made an appearance between the 1940s and mid-1960s. It is thought that around 50,000 women received liquid silicone injections directly into their breasts, despite the FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration) strict disapproval. This practice began among prostitutes in the Pacific Theater during World War II, in an effort to increase their appeal to American GIs. However, it could result in the dreadful “silicone rot”, where gangrene would set into the breast injection area.

Silicone implants

Despite the painful complications associated with experimentation in the field of breast augmentation, demand was still strong. In the 1940s and 50s, many women wanted to look like icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield with their curvy silhouettes. This persuaded many to consider augmenting their breasts regardless of the risks.

Then, the silicone implant was born.

The first implant technologies came about early in the 1960s. Dr Thomas Cronin and Dr Frank Gerow developed the first, fully encased silicone breast implant. And in 1962, Timmie Jean Lindsey became the first human to receive the implants.

Silicone implants continued to be used for some time, with saline implants arriving at the end of the 60s.

2019 and beyond!

The most recent advancement in breast implant technology has been in the form of cohesive gel implants, which are said to be leak and rupture proof – a long way from the leak and rupture prone beginnings of implant materials.

Breast augmentation can address the most common factors which lead to a woman’s dissatisfaction with her breasts – loss of volume after having children, general weight loss or reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy – resulting in greater body confidence.

Every surgery carries a risk, but now, thanks to the arrival of safer devices, certified surgeons and improved best practice such as the implementation of the Keogh review recommendations, women can undergo breast augmentation procedures with minimal risk and maximum positive impact.

Expect breast augmentation to preserve its top place on the aesthetics market for some time to come.