History of Breast Augmentation

The first breast augmentation took place in 1890, the surgeon Robert Gersuny, from Austria, experimented with paraffin injections to augment the breast, this ended with disastrous results, it led to infections and lumps forming in the breasts. The first published account of breast augmentation was in 1895, a Doctor Vincenz Czerny from Austria, effectively performed an augmentation on a woman’s breasts by moving a benign lipoma from a woman’s back to fix asymmetry problems after a tumour had been removed.

In the 1920s they tried using fat transplants in breast augmentations. The way this worked was that they transferred fat from the belly and buttock areas to the breasts. Though this did not work very well as the body would quickly reabsorb the fat and this would leave the breasts lumpy and lopsided. In 1945 Morton I. Berson, and in 1950 Jacques Maliniac both performed flap-based breast augmentation by rotating the patient’s chest wall tissue into the breast to increase the size. Between then and 1950s they used a range of other substances as breast implant fillers — ivory, glass balls, ground rubber, ox cartilage, wool, gutta-percha (a type of fruit), polyethylene chips (a type of plastic), Ivalon (polyvinyl alcohol–formaldehyde polymer sponge), a polyethylene sac with Ivalon, polyether foam sponge (Etheron), polyethylene tape (Polystan) strips wound into a ball, polyester (polyurethane foam sponge) Silastic rubber, and teflon-silicone prostheses. Through out the 1960s plastic surgeons tried silicone injections directly into the breast, this caused breast hardening and chronic inflammation.

In 1961 the first silicone breast implant was developed by Thomas Cronin and Frank Gerow with the Dow Corning Corporation. This is the same type of implant that is commonly used today. In 1988 these type of implants were investigated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and in 1992 the FDA placed silicone implants in moratorium because there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that they were safe and effective. In 1995 the Dow Corning Corporation went bankruptcy protection when it faced 19,000 breast implant sickness lawsuits. In 1995 Soybean oil implants were introduced. These were considered to be the “natural approach” to breast augmentation. This type of breast implant was never approved in the U.S. And for good reason. In 1999 they were found to have a filler that could go toxic in the body when it breaks down. A famous case of complications with this type of implant is that of Tara Reid. In 1998 the FDA approved the use of silicone implants only for breast reconstruction patients and in 1999 the Institute of Medicine published the Safety of Silicone Breast Implants (1999) study that reported that the saline and silicone breast implants caused no systematic health problems, that their use posed no new health or safety risks; and that local complications are “the primary safety issue with silicone breast implants”.

In 2000 the FDA approved the use of saline implants for women over 18 and women requiring breast reconstruction. In 2006 the FDA lifted its restrictions on the use of Silicone breast implants. Yet, the approval was conditional upon accepting FDA monitoring.

That pretty much brings you up to speed on the long history of breast augmentation.


Vincenz Czerny:
Robert Gersuny:
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