You are not the only person who has wondered how implanted saline and silicone will behave under pressure. In the second-ever episode of Mythbusters, a young Jamie Hynerman threw an implant into a homemade hyperbaric chamber in an attempt to answer this very question. But that was almost a decade ago, leaving an entirely new generation of breast-curious athletes out there.
The answer, as Hynerman found out, is, no; implants should not explode while SCUBA diving to the maximum-recommended depth of 100 feet, or about four atmospheres of pressure. But the Mythbusters star isn’t the only guy to prove it. Because this issue was of such concern to avid divers, the vice president of research for the Divers Alert Network performed an experiment to determine how silicone, saline, and silicone-saline filled implants would hold up underwater. The result?
There was an insignificant increase in bubble size (one to four percent) in both saline and silicone gel implants, depending on the depth and duration of the dive. And bubble formation in implants led to a small volume increase, which is not likely to damage the implants or surrounding tissue.
In that experiment, the saline-filled breast implants had the least change in volume, but all observed volume changes were negligible.
While we’re on the subject of breast implants, let’s address a few more myths. No, breast implants should not explode in a plane. Hynerman and his cohost, Adam Savage, also busted that myth. They found that implants barely expanded at an altitude of about 35,000 feet, a typical cruising altitude for jets, though pressure inside the cabin is usually comparable to being at 8,000 feet. So theoretically, if an athlete with augmented breasts climbed Mount Everest, which has a summit of about 29,000 feet, exploding implants should be low on the list of things to worry about.
And as for the myth that breast implants provide an unfair swimming advantage because they float? “Implants are neutrally buoyant,” says Dr. Mele, a San Francisco Bay area-based plastic surgeon. “They’re very similar to the fat tissue that would normally be in the breast, so I don’t think it would give any advantage.” In fact, he says, the bigger the breasts are, “the more drag they’re going to have.”