Saline and silicone breast implants both use an outer silicone shell. Saline implants are filled with sterile salt water after they have been inserted. On the other hand, silicone implants are pre-filled with silicone gel. Silicone implants cost about $1,000 more, have a more "natural" feel, are lighter but require a larger incision for insertion and annual MRIs after surgery.

Comparison chart

Saline versus Silicone comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartSalineSilicone
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Look and feel Saline implants have a less natural look and feel. Saline implants are heavier and can potentially cause sagging. Silicone implants have a more natural look and feel. Silicone implants are lighter.
Incision Saline implants require a smaller incision. A transaxillary (armpit) incision can be used with saline implants. Silicone implants need a larger incision. About 70% of patients use an inframammary (under the breast) incision. The periareolar incision (scar around the colored part of the nipple) is also very popular.
Risk after rupture No. Saline water is absorbed by the body where it poses no risk. Potentially. Surgery is recommended if a silicone implant ruptures.
Cost $5,000 to $10,000. Saline implants cost roughly $1,000 less than silicone. $5,000 to $10,000. Silicone implants cost roughly $1,000 more than saline.
MRA scans needed after surgery No. It becomes obvious that the implant has deflated. Yes. MRA scans are needed to ensure that the implant has not ruptured.
Minimum age 18 or over for augmentation, any age for reconstruction. 22 or over for augmentation, any age for reconstruction.


Breast augmentation can sometimes be done as an outpatient procedure, or may require an overnight hospital stay. The procedure takes one to two hours and is done under general anesthesia.


Silicone implants are pre-filled and so they need a larger incision. Typically, this incision is made under the breast or around the nipple. Saline implants may instead use an incision under the armpit.

Pros and Cons

Saline implants have a flexible fill volume, allowing the surgeon to adjust the size as needed during the procedure. If a saline implant ruptures, it will deflate, and the leaking solution will be absorbed by the body, where it does not pose any health risk. Surgery is needed to remove the silicone shell.

Many women feel that silicone feels and looks more like natural breast tissue. As silicone is lighter than saline, the risk of downwards displacement due to gravity is lower. However, they lead to a larger scar. If it ruptures, there may not be any noticeable difference, but may lead to pain or changes in shape. Because it may not be detectable, those with silicone implants may need regular MRI scans. Only two companies, Mentor and Allergan, are approved to sell silicone implants after health concerns from the FDA.


Costs vary depending on location and doctor but typically ranges from $5,000 to $10,000. Silicone implants typically cost $900-$1000 more than saline implants.

Recovery time

Regardless of implant type, recovery takes two to three weeks.

Ongoing exams

Annual exams are recommended after breast implant surgery, especially for silicone implants. An MRI may be recommended to ensure that the implant has not ruptured.


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