What are cohesive gel breast implants? Are gummy bear implants safer than other silicone implants?

Q. What are cohesive gel breast implants? Are gummy bear implants safer than other silicone implants?

A. Plastic surgeons sometimes suggest “gummy bear” breast implants, named after gummy bear candies because the implants are a thicker, more cohesive silicone gel. Since the gel in these newer models are thicker than most other silicone gel implants, it is possible that they might be less likely to break or leak into the body. Since no long-term studies have been done, there is no proof that these implants are safer. There is no way to really know if these implants will last longer than other implants and if they will cause more complications or fewer complications.

It’s important to know that not all “cohesive gel breast implants” are gummy bear implants. All implants that are sold today are a more cohesive silicone gel than the implants from 20 years ago. Many different kinds of breast implants are called cohesive gel implants. Only the most cohesive implants are called “gummy bear implants.”

We have heard from many women who are unhappy with gummy bear implants,either because they ruptured within just a few years or because they caused very bad autoimmune reactions. That worries us because they are relatively new and it is surprising that so many women are having serious problems even within the first few years. It’s important to know that gummy bear implants are relatively new and that the FDA has never required the companies to determine how safe they are in the long-term or how long they last.  Compared to women getting traditional silicone implants, any woman getting gummy bear implants is more of a “guinea pig” who is helping the company test the implants – but still has to pay for them.

We have also heard from women with other kinds of cohesive breast implants that broke and leaked silicone into their bodies. While some plastic surgeons assume that a more cohesive gel will be less likely to leak, others caution that the “gel in these implants has not been studied long-term, so their claims of no leaking may not prove true” and that there are additional risks because “if the implant is not placed perfectly, it will be much more obvious” and “will most likely result in more patients needing breast revision surgery.”

Most breast implants, whatever they are made of, do not leak during the first few years of use. All breast implants seem very sturdy when they are new. In fact, we’ve seen new breast implants thrown against a wall that did not break. But when those same implants are inside the body, even the strongest breast implants will break and leak as they age. That’s why we won’t know how safe they are and how long they last until gummy bear implants and other cohesive breast implants are in women for 10 years or more.

The comments and statements of the National Research Center for Women & Families are believed and intended to be accurate, and where applicable, based on scientific literature. NRC’s statements do not constitute medical diagnoses, medical advice, plans of treatment, or legal opinion, and we are not responsible for the use or application of this information. All medical information should be reviewed with your health care practitioner.

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