A Coating To Lower Capsular Contracture

Though they were withdrawn from the US market in 1989, a coating used in breast implants from the late seventies through today has been used around the globe with large success. International doctors boast low rates of capsular contracture and a more natural look and feel to the breast. But what exactly is the polyurethane foam coating for breast implants, and are they the right option for you?


Polyurethane-coated implants are best known for their low rates of capsular contracture, the shrinking of the thin, soft, fibrous envelope that encases the implant. This shrinking can cause the breast to feel firmer, distort the shape of the breast, and cause the patient pain or discomfort. Many studies have found that polyurethane coated implants do have a lower incidence of capsular contracture, though the reason why is not completely clear.

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A lower rate of capsular contracture is not the only reason that polyurethane implants are popular elsewhere in the world. Another advantage to the polyurethane coating is its “fuzzy” outer coating, which allows it to adhere to the surrounding tissue (the capsule). While this might seem odd, it actually helps the implant stay in place. Your implant will not drop or rotate unattractively with the polyurethane coating, allowing you to enjoy your implant longer.

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The controversy surrounding these implants is endless, especially in the US. There is one aspect of polyurethane implants, though, that both critics and proponents agree upon: they require a bigger incision. That means more time needed for healing and more skin that might possibly scar.

Additionally, removal of the implant might be more difficult as it integrates into the capsule and begins to find a home in the breast. In the case that a polyurethane implant needs to be removed, the surgeon might require a capsulectomy (complete removal of the capsule) simply because of the polyurethane’s integration into the breast.  

Another difficult aspect of polyurethane implants is the requirement for correct positioning. The fuzzy outer coating makes it pertinent that the implant be placed correctly the first time. Otherwise, another surgery might be required to reposition the implant. In America, this means not many doctors will be able to correctly perform the surgery once the implants are back on the market, which will lead to higher surgeon costs of those who can.

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Speaking of costs: the implant itself will also cost more. Because of its capabilities, the implant will have a higher price tag than its competitors. Just as a better car is priced higher, so higher quality implants are also priced higher.

The FDA And Polyurethane

Many people think that polyurethane coated implants were banned by the FDA a long time ago and will not be on the market until they are approved again, but the truth is: the FDA never banned polyurethane implants. In reality, the manufacturer of these implants removed them from the American market when the FDA asked about for information on the chemical make-up and safety testing of the polyurethane foam. The information was requested due to an unpublished study that suggested that these implants might increase cancer in women.

Further down the line, the FDA required testing was completed. The conclusion: “The risk of cancer, if any, appears small and would very likely be outweighed by the surgical risk involved in removing a polyurethane-coated breast implant.” Since then, no significant governmental changes have occurred in relation to polyurethane implants. The absence of these implants from the market are not due to the government.

Is Polyurethane Right For Me?

That is the big question. As of right now, you would have to go abroad in order to get polyurethane implants. In the near future, this might change, but no significant moves have been made to reintroduce this implant to the market. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are considering getting polyurethane implants abroad or when they come to the American market:

  • Am I willing to pay more for polyurethane implants (this includes the cost of the actual implant and surgical placement costs)?
  • Can I take enough time off of work for healing?
  • Do I trust the doctor performing my surgery (this is especially important if you are going abroad and have not met your doctor)?
  • If I have to pay to have my implant readjusted, can I afford it?
  • Will my insurance cover the cost of polyurethane implants?

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