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Follow the Boob
The life of a breast implant, from inception to incineration
1. Do You Know The Way to San José?
Allergan does. The pharmaceutical firm generates billions in revenue from implants made in Costa Rica as well as from products such as Botox, Juvéderm, and Latisse.
2. Squash, Ship, Repeat
Implant samples are tested by exerting 55 pounds of pressure as many as 6.5 million times. Vetted product is shipped in tamperproof containers to Allergan’s offices in Irvine.
3. A Shape of Things to Come
An Allergan sales rep brings silicone and saline samples to doctors’ offices for surgeons and patients to consider. Silicone implants are generally more popular than saline because the gel material looks and feels more natural.
4. The Odds Are Stacked
Purchased implants (which cost about $1,500 a pair) are then stored in the surgeon’s office. “A big closet of boobs, basically,” says Long Beach plastic surgeon Dr. Marcel Daniels. The shelf life of an implant is up to five years.
5. To DD or Not to DD?
The most popular breast implant size in Los Angeles is a “full C or a small D,” in lingerie terms, according to Dr. Daniels, who performs more than 100 augmentations a year, 99 percent of which are silicone. That midrange implant contains roughly the equivalent of three cups of Jell-O. That’s not exactly porn star proportions, but it’s still a full cup size larger than women wanted 20 years ago.
6. Life On the Inside
Augmentation starts with incisions made in the breast crease by way of pinpoint electrocautery dissection, which allows a surgeon to cut through soft tissue easily while sealing off blood vessels for a procedure that’s almost blood-free. Scarring is minimal.
7. Dynamic Duo
With less invasive procedures, patients can have the surgery on Friday and usually return to everyday routines, such as shampooing their hair, by Tuesday.
8. A Decade Later, It’s Adieu
The standard guideline for silicone gel implant removal is every ten years. However, some doctors believe the latest implants can hold up longer—about 15 to 20 years, without rupturing or damaging tissue. According to the FDA, the longer a woman keeps implants, the more likely the risk of complications.
9. How Things Really Go Bust
It’s tough out there for old implants. Once they’re removed, patients are allowed to keep them (though they rarely do); most are thrown away, so they can’t be reused. One doctor admitted to taking an implant home, and it became a toddler toy. (Now that’s a Pixar movie we’d like to see.)
10. The Final Flameout
Those unwanted jugs don’t just get tossed into a Hefty bag. They’re technically classified as “specimens” and must be disposed of in a specific way, which means in biohazard bags that are hauled to a medical waste management facility and unceremoniously incinerated. May they breast in peace.
Illustrations by Hiroshi Yoshii