Saline Injection for a temporary breast enlargement has come as a procedure to have it for special events, parties, and vacations. Ever wish that you could have bigger boobs just for a day or two, so you can fit into that dress or simply see how big breasted woman are treated differently at a bar? Let’s understand this latest craze of temporary breast enlargements.
Plastic surgeons have been injecting saline into women’s breasts to expand their size. The effect of the procedure only lasts around 24 hours, but it is much less risky or invasive than regular breast augmentation or enlargement surgery. The saline injections were originally meant as a way for women considering these types of surgeries to see how they might look with larger breasts. If a patient was unsure of committing to implants, some surgeons would also use the injections as a trial run to see if she liked having larger breasts.
According the New York Times, the saline injection procedure quickly took on a life of its own and is being requested for special events, parties, and vacations. However, these temporary improvements come with a steep price tag of $3,500 a procedure (though some costs are reported to be as low as $2,500), prohibiting many from opting for the quick fix.
Surgeons such as Manhattan-based Dr. Norman Rowe, who perform the injections three to five times a week, claim that it is a safe procedure. Saline, which is just salt water, harmlessly absorbs into the body. Other doctors are not pleased with the rising popularity of saline injections. Dr. Michael C. Edwards, president of American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) claims that the procedure could stretch out skin, leaving breasts droopy, and Daniel Mills, M.D., a plastic surgeon and member of ASAPS, told Yahoo Health that as with any injection, there is a risk of infection and blood pooling under the skin.
And this isn’t the first time a plastic surgery fad has had questionable risks for vanity’s sake. In 2011, Britain saw a drastic increase in the number of labiaplastys performed, and just a few months ago Salon reported on bizarre but popular plastic surgery trends which included dimple implants and nipple lightening. Compared to all that, a little saline injection seems downright quaint.
The procedure began as as a way for women seeking breast enhancement to determine how they might look if they chose surgery. “We can take pictures and put them on computers, but those are sometimes unrealistic and can lead to false expectations,” Dr. Rowe said (giving new meaning, perhaps, to the term “falsies”). “So we said, if patients are unsure if they want implants, let’s put saline in the breast and let them live with it for 24 hours to see how they like it.”
It may not surprise that the injections were soon being requested as pick-me-ups for parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, red-carpet events or, as with Ms. Sanders, a tropical vacation.
Ms. Sanders, 41, an image consultant in New York and a mother of two, had been toying with the idea of a breast lift to enhance her “very shallow C cup,” but she was a little reluctant. When she heard of the temporary saline option (cost: $3,500), she leapt at the chance. Twice. “It was worth it,” she said. “I could wear halter tops and a string bikini and feel really sexy. I’m in the business of vanity. As an image consultant, I have to look the part and be the part.”
While “lunchtime lifts” using injectable fillers similar to Restylane or Juvéderm are available in Europe, they are not F.D.A.-approved in the United States. Macrolane, another filler, was banned in Britain as a breast injectable because it was thought to cloud mammogram readings, among other complications. Saline is essentially saltwater that is absorbed into the bloodstream in about 24 hours.
Breast enhancement surgeries are decidedly popular in the United States. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 313,327 breast augmentations and 137,233 breast lifts were performed in 2013. A noninvasive procedure like a saline injection would seem to be just what the doctor ordered.
But not every doctor. Few seem to condone the injections, which Dr. Rowe has been doing for about five years for presurgical patients. Over the last year, he has been flooded with requests for one-night use. He does three to five procedures a week, he said, with minor bruising the only complication.
Dr. Michael C. Edwards, a plastic surgeon in Las Vegas and the president of American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, called the practice “a party trick.” “I can’t see that there’s a huge harm in it, but you’re stretching the skin out,” he said. “You’re altering the architecture of the breast. I would be concerned that you would be taking away some intrinsic support in the breast.”
Dr. Steven Teitelbaum, a plastic surgeon in Santa Monica, Calif., and an associate clinical professor of plastic surgery at the U.C.L.A. School of Medicine, called the saline solution unnecessary. “Between good bras and chicken cutlets, you can always look good in clothes,” he said.
As for its use in gauging implant size, he added: “The feel of saline is sharply dissimilar from an implant, and the appearance is different because the edges diffuse and feather, which an implant does not.” Three-dimensional imaging, which has become a viable option for projecting surgical outcomes, would be a more accurate prediction of size and shape, he said. (Indeed, a recent study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal found that 3-D imaging was more than 90 percent accurate in predicting postoperative breast volume and surface contour.)
Dr. Jennifer Capla, a plastic surgeon in New York, offers saline injections as part of her $450 consultation for breast augmentation surgery. “If done by a board-certified plastic surgeon in a fashion that’s safe, I think it’s O.K.,” she said. “But is it safe to do three days in a row? Will it cause electrolyte imbalance? I’m a big fan of moderation.”
Courtney Daal, 27, of Brooklyn was married in June. Before her wedding, she paid a visit to Dr. Rowe. “I wanted to not be too enhanced but look my best,” said Ms. Daal, who went from an A cup to a C cup for the big day. To be sure her custom strapless gown would fit over her new additions, she advised her seamstress in advance, so she could plan accordingly.
“Saline is a part of what we have in our bloodstream, and is part of our naturally occurring interstitial solution,” Daniel Mills, M.D., a plastic surgeon in Laguna Beach, California, and member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), told Yahoo Health. “So it’s about as safe as one could expect.” For the procedure, fluid is injected into the breast tissue, rather than going behind the chest muscle, as with an implant. “How big they get depends on the number of cc’s used,” he said.
Saline is essentially saltwater that is absorbed back into the bloodstream in about 24 hours. It’s a stateside alternative to popular “lunchtime lifts” in Europe, which inject fillers like Restylane or Juvéderm but are not approved here by the FDA. Still, “Anytime you are injecting something, there’s a risk of infection, a risk of hematoma [blood that pools under the skin],” Mills added regarding the saline injections. “So I wouldn’t say it’s without any risk whatsoever.”
And while there are occasions when people get saline injections in places besides the breasts — such as in the forehead, in Japan, where odd-looking “bagel head” injections have been a body-modification fad — the breast brings with it a particular risk. “If you can get milk to come out of the ducts, you can get bacteria to go into those ducts,” he explained. “So there ‘s a little more bacterial involvement with the breast than with the forehead.”
Although Mills has not performed the procedure before, he said he might consider it for someone who would want to try out a new look before getting actual implants — similar to how people will sometimes get saline injected into their lips or cheeks before getting more permanent fillers. “It would be a way to try on breasts before you buy them,” he said.
Injecting saline does stretch out the skin, Mills added, although he wouldn’t expect any long-term effects, since the saline only lasts “18 hours max” before being reabsorbed into the body. Silicone injections, meanwhile, are permanent, and even illegal in a couple of states because they’re thought to mask breast cancer readings.
It’s important to note that the saline procedure, though not approved by all doctors, differs greatly from other curve-enhancing injections that so often lead to medical disaster — illegal, underground ones, often administered at “pumping parties,” and containing dangerous mixtures of non-medical-grade silicone and various other ingredients. Those often cause complications that lead to death. “It’s apples and fish,” Mills noted, adding that, with any injection, “It makes a big difference to go to a member of ASAPS, where patient safety is the priority.”