July 7, 2000 -- Bigger Breasts, No Surgery! Women have heard that one before, with numerous creams, herbs, and other remedies on the market promising easy augmentation.
Well, make room for another method, because a plastic surgeon says that an experimental, nonsurgical tissue-expansion system can safely increase breast size by an average of 55%. Roger K. Khouri, MD, came to that conclusion after studying the effect of the suction-type device on a group of women ages 18 to 40. The results of his study have been published in one of the most prestigious journals for the plastic surgery profession: Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
All of which is to say that the device is no gimmick, and that its efficacy at promoting breast growth is based on a known physiological principle -- that human tissue, when put under sustained, long-term tension, grows.
In the case of this study, long term meant 10 weeks. During that time, the 12 women who saw the experiment through wore a cup-like device over each breast for 10 to 12 hours a day. The "domes," as Khouri refers to them, were held in place with a silicone gel adhesive -- and beyond that, by a bra. A battery-powered pump, run by a pressure-sensitive microchip, kept them inflated to provide a steady, constant tension.
Khouri reports the women found the device comfortable, and were "very pleased" with breast enlargements ranging from 15% to 115%. Their breasts shrunk some in the week after the women stopped using the device, but up to seven months later, what size had remained after the first week was maintained. Radiographic imaging of the bigger breasts showed no swelling, but an increase in both fatty and glandular tissues. In other words ... success.
But hold on. A breast augmentation expert predicts that if the device ever comes to market, few women will actually benefit. "It's going to take a special woman with an abject fear of surgery who wants to increase their breast volume a little bit," says James Baker Jr., MD, chair of the breast surgery committee of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. "And we're talking a little bit. I'm not talking about going from an A to a C cup. Maybe a little A to a bigger A."
Baker says that's minimal compared with what a saline implant can do. He adds that the study sample was far too small to draw a meaningful conclusion about the device, but that women will likely find it difficult to wear. "It's hard to wear under clothing without seeing it. It's a big, cumbersome device." And, he points out, it must be worn 10 to 12 hours a day for 10 weeks.
Another possible drawback: expense. Baker, who was contacted about investing in the device, estimates it will run about $2,000. And at this point, no one is sure whether the results are permanent.
A source close to Biometrics LLC, the company that would market the breast-building device, speaking to WebMD on condition of anonymity, emphasized that the device is still in the experimental phase. And though it appears to work, it is not -- and never was -- intended for women seeking a dramatic change in breast size, he says. In fact, when compared with a saline implant, he says, results are rather modest. It takes about 175 cc to 200 cc of saline in an implant to get an increase of one cup size. The device adds volume equivalent to about half that.
Still, there is optimism that some women might find the device an attractive alternative to surgery -- those looking for just a bit more fullness, for example. Biometrics says the product should be available through doctors by the end of this year, and the company is already encouraging women to get onto a "preferred customer list" to get it.
As for the science behind the device, more answers could be coming this fall, when Khouri and colleagues wrap up a larger study. About 300 women are participating.
- A researcher has developed a nonsurgical breast augmentation device that he says can increase breast size by an average of 55%.
- The device must be worn 10 to 12 hours per day for 10 weeks. It works by putting sustained pressure on the breasts, causing the tissue to grow.
- Experts say that while the device may increase breast size, the increase is moderate and does not compare to that available with breast augmentation surgery.