A Brief History and Statistics of Breast Implants in the United States
Today, individuals contemplating breast augmentation have the most surgical choices they have ever had; however, breast implants actually have a long history. In fact, they have been around, in one form or another, since the late 1800s. Per the Center for Plastic Surgery, “Before the dawn of the 20th Century, some women were so eager to increase their bust size that they went under the knife with complete uncertainty. Until the middle of the 20th Century, doctors used just about anything they could get their hands on to enlarge the female breasts—including vegetable oils, ground rubber, ox cartilage, goat’s milk, Teflon, peanut oil, Terylene wool, and sponges. Unfortunately, the success rate was frighteningly low and often resulted in terrible infection, disease, and sometimes death.
In the 1960’s, physicians realized that foreign liquids inside the breast should not be free floating, but instead encased in some kind of “bag.” This was the birth of the first breast implant that resembles the modern devices, and in 1962, Timmie Jean Lindsey became the first woman to receive breast enlargement using silicone implants. The mother of six was operated on at the Jefferson Davis Hospital in Houston, Texas. Over a two-hour timeframe, Lindsey went from a B to a C cup size.
Ironically, Lindsey did not intend to have breast enlargement surgery. In fact, she went to the hospital “to get a tattoo removed from her breasts, and it was then that doctors asked if she would consider volunteering for this first-of-its-kind operation.” According to Lindsey, “I was more concerned about getting my ears pinned back… My ears stood out like Dumbo! And they said, ‘Oh we’ll do that too.’ So, a deal was struck.”
The two pioneering surgeons, Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin, deemed the operation a success, and Gerow said the “implants were ‘as harmless as water, and more than fifty years later, Lindsey remains happy with the results. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-17511491.
Even though breast implants made with silicone envelopes and filled with silicone gel or saline (salt water) were first sold in the United States in the 1960s, sales were relatively slow until the 1980s. https://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book-excerpts/health-article/facts-about-breast-implants/