Gummi Bear implants may be the future for breast augmentation

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by Meg Farris / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on January 26, 2011 at 12:19 PM

It's the number one surgical cosmetic procedure in the U.S., breast augmentation.

But in the past, women have had some problems with implants leaking or rupturing.

So could something completely different, new technology,  soon be available?

They are words you might not have heard in the same sentence before, Gummy Bears and breast implants. But in the near future you may be hearing it a lot more.

"They are using it a lot all over the world, South America, Central America, Europe. These implants are being used left and right. They love them. They like these implants," said Dr. Gustavo Colon, a Tulane Professor and Metairie Plastic Surgeon
 

"From European experience, talking to plastic surgeons in Europe, they are very happy with that. And it works better in certain conditions," said  Dr. Kamran Khoobehi, LSU Health Sciences Center and Metairie Plastic Surgeon.

Cohesive gel breast implants get their Gummy Bear slang name from the candies in the shape of a teddy bear. Even though they are spongy, if you cut one open, they are still firm on the inside and will not leak. The Gummy Bear breast implants are the same. When you cut one open, you can squeeze it and the somewhat sticky inside won't leak.

"It's cohesive gel and the beauty is that it will stay exactly that way. It will not move. The gel won't move. It will stay right there," said Dr. Colon.  

Cohesive gel implants are different from what's on the market now for several reasons. Not only will they not leak, but they are less likely to rupture. Here's why, they are firmer so they hold their shape better and don't bend and wrinkle as you move.

"Experience from Europe shows that they last longer and one of the reasons is that you don't get any folds in it because it's a much more shaped implant, said Dr. Khoobehi .

And they are shaped differently. Unlike current implants and ones of the past, they are not round. They are more naturally shaped, in a tear drop fashion as the breast is. So when a woman stands up, the gel is not moving to the bottom and causing folds that can weaken the implant at the top. In fact with this implant, there is a front, back, top, and bottom and they are marked so the surgeon can put them in exactly right.

So in other places in the world where they are already approved do women seem to like them better?

"I haven't heard from women," said Dr. Colon.  "I've heard from doctors and they say they like them. They get very good results."

And there may be another advantage to cohesive gel implants. One of the most common complications of breast implants is a hardening of the breast tissue called capsular contracture and with these it may not be as common.

"Now this is textured and this is slick," said Dr. Colon referring to the outer shell of the current implant and the Gummy Bear one.  "What's the difference between the two, well they say that the textured one doesn't create as much scar tissue because the scar tissue can't grab onto it."  

But these implants do have a draw back. Because they are firmer, they can't be folded and squeezed through a small incision. So they can't go through the belly button or underarm or the dark area on the breast called the areola. They have to be put in a longer incision in the fold underneath the breast. And they need to be implanted into a tight pocket in the breast, so they can't turn upside down. So women who have current implants and want to change them might have to have extra surgery to tighten the bigger pocket from the older implants.

While the Gummy Bear implants have been used for 16 years in other countries, they are not yet approved in the U.S. by the FDA. They have been tested in the U.S. recently but right now they are being reviewed by the federal government.

If the FDA approves the gummy bear implants, Dr. Khoobehi will not switch all of his patients from his current cohesive gel implants to the Gummy Bears.

"I'm going to switch for some patients. I don't think it's going to be appropriate for all the patients," said Dr. Khoobehi.

So if a women is thinking about breast augmentation should she wait and see if the new ones are approved before she makes a decision? Dr. Colon says 'No.'

"Because I think what we have now is just as good. I've been using it for 30 years and they are fine. It's not a problem," said Dr. Colon.

But he does say that the current ones could leak.

So this is yet another option and personal preference for patients and doctors to discuss.

It is unclear when the FDA will make it's decision on the new implants, and it is unclear if they will cost more than the ones on the market now. But they appear to last longer which could mean saving money on replacement costs.

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