Will Breast Implants Make Me Float Or Sink?

Q: I have a strange question for you Dr. Eppley but I am very curious. I am going to get breast augmentation in the near future and am an avid swimmer. My friend told me that it might interfere with me swimming. She said she heard that breast implants will act like floats and slow me down or could weigh me down and make it harder to stay afloat. Is what she is saying true?

A: Your question/concern about the impact of breast implants in the water is neither strange nor new. Women have asked me about that numerous times in my Indianapolis plastic surgery practice. One the one hand, millions of women over the past thirty years have had breast implants and such potential problems have never surfaced or been reported. This would strongly suggest that what your friend is telling you is nothing more than an urban myth.

From a scientific standpoint, the question is one of the buoyancy of breast implants. Depending upon the type of breast implant, the answer differs slightly. Saline implants are neutrally buoyant, meaning that they will neither float nor sink. This makes perfect sense since they are essentially the same density as the water in which they are immersed. The two fluids are only separated by the thin containment shell of the implant. Silicone implants, however, are a little more dense than water and  will have a slight sinking effect.But they will not completely sink and essentially float as well. This can be easily demonstrated by placing both type of implants in a sink filled with water.

When placed in the body, however, the buoyancy of breast implants demonstrated by benchtop testing becomes irrelevant. Their impact will be the same as any other enclosed body part. Their only potential impact on swimming is on the aerodynamics of the body shape, which is only relevant if one is an Olympic or competitive swimmer.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana