April 3, 2012
Dr. Anu Bajaj, M.D.
Breast Surgeon, breast augmentation, silicone implants

The Silicone Breast Implant Turns 50

The procedure that started it all, performed in 1962

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the day Timmie Jean Lindsey, a mother-of-six from Houston, Texas, became the first recipient of the silicone breast implant.

It may be hard to fathom now, with breast augmentation being the second-most popular form of plastic surgery in the United States and abroad (after liposuction), but it all started with a single patient. And she was only there for a tattoo removal.

While at the hospital to get a tattoo removed from her breast, her doctors, Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin, offered her the chance to volunteer for a new procedure they had invented to enhance her bust size. After haggling a bit and getting a free ear lift out of the deal, she agreed.

Two hours later, history was made.

Cronin and Gerow initially conceived of the silicone breast implant to help women who had undergone mastectomies, but they had no idea that they had just stumbled onto a plastic surgery revolution.

“Sure it was a little bit exciting, but if I’d had a mirror to the future I’d have been dumbstruck,” said Thomas Biggs, who worked with Gerow and Cronin as a junior resident in 1962.

When Cronin presented his implant to the International Society of Plastic Surgeons in 1963, his discovery was met with much ardor. “The plastic surgery world was absolutely set on fire with enthusiasm,” says Biggs.

There had been many attempts, non-surgical and surgical, to enhance busts in the past, but the silicone implant appeared to be the first viable solution, with minimal side effects. Fifty years later, updated technology has made the implant even safer.

Timmie Jean, now 80, still has those historical implants inside her body. While time and gravity have taken their effect on her body like it would any aging woman, she’s proud to have a piece of history inside her.

“It’s kind of awesome to know that I was first,” she says.