3D Printed Boobs: Is This Goodbye To Silicone Implants Forever?

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Not a lot has changed when it comes to having breast implants, but Australian surgeons might have shaken up the game to make the surgery safer.

A breast implant procedure that uses 3D printing of ‘bioresorbable materials’ has just been performed in Brisbane for the first time ever.

“What we’ve just done is the first ever breast implant in the world of this type of scaffold,” said Dr. Owen Ung, Director of the Comprehensive Breast Cancer Institute.

The surgery used a potentially safer alternative to silicone implants, which have a long reputation for awful side effects, and the development is an enormous stride forward for women’s health and procedures globally.

This could be life changing for those affected with breast cancer, or other afflictions that require repair and for aesthetic purposes. And Dr Ung and his team feel confident that it’s going to become a standard way to reconstruct in the future.

Everything There Is To Know About The Procedure

So is this goodbye to silicone implants forever? Well not quite yet, but it could be.

Following successful animal trials, Moana Staunton was the first human patient to have the procedure done by the Metro North Health team in Brisbane last month.

Dr. Owen Ung and Dr Michael Wagels performed the ground-breaking procedure by removing Moana’s silicone implants — which had caused her brain fog and constant discomfort — and replacing them with a 3D printed bioresorbable scaffold, which was injected with her own fat cells. That scaffold was printed in Germany and sent to Brisbane, and is an intricately woven breast implant which after two years eventually dissolves leaving nothing but Moana’s own natural tissues.

“The device that’s implanted is bioabsorbable,” Dr Wagels explained. “It turns into carbon dioxide and water. And its initial purpose is to provide a support structure for the biological material that is put in and around the implant.”

Both doctors explained that the scaffolds are made of similar types of materials that surgeons use all the time when they operate. In other words, there’s no foreign substance. The material also impressively supports fat cells in a way that no other material has been able to do before.

Fat grafting isn’t a new thing and is used for breast augmentations a lot. The problem with fat is that when you inject a certain amount of fat into a patient, 70% of that fat usually disappears.

“Fat doesn’t have a particularly good blood supply. It’s not particularly robust, [and] it doesn’t survive very well on its own,” Dr Wagels pointed out.

“It’s important to establish and maintain the space, provide the lattice work or the structure for the fat to sort of hang onto and survive. And that’s exactly what this scaffold does now.”

The Downside To Silicone Breast Implants

Breast augmentation is Australia’s and the world’s most popular cosmetic procedure. The only problem is that all current breast implants fail eventually. And nowhere is that more elegantly demonstrated than in Silicone, Dr Wagel told Junkee.

“The life of a Silicon implant for the purposes of reconstructing a breast is eight to 10 years, if everything goes particularly well, but we’re discovering that silicone can cause lots of other problems. It can cause scarring around the implant which could become quite painful. It’s also a breast implant associated illness and in some very rare cases cancer as a consequence of the implant.”

What We Can Expect Next

While the trial is only in its early stages, Dr Ung said the next step is to treat 10 to 15 patients who also have faulty implants that need removing. The challenge after that would be to reconstruct a breast in the setting of someone who has suffered from breast cancer.

“Our primary objective is to show safety. Obviously we want to achieve a good aesthetic, that’s really important when you’re performing a breast reconstruction, but primarily patient safety is the first objective,” said Dr Ung.

This is a procedure which brings together the best plastic surgeons, reconstructive surgeons and breast surgeons, all with the same goal.

And as Dr Ung put it:”What we want to see is women having access to the best technology and the best treatments available worldwide.”