Silicone gel is a synthetic material that is frequently used for medical purposes such as scar treatment, scar reduction, cosmetic implants, and artificial joints. It is also used during reconstructive surgery to make valves for the vascular system, and is also an ingredient in many prosthetic structures. Because it is a synthetic material, silicone gel can be easily manipulated into different densities and shapes for various uses.
Scientific studies have shown that the application of silicone gel to scars can improve scar elasticity, decrease redness, decrease swelling, and guard against bacteria and other infections. Silicone is most effective for reducing scars that are raised and red in color, know as hypertrophic scars. These scars are commonly caused by surgical incisions and burns. The gel should not be applied to an open wound, but it can be applied to older scars to help diminish redness and inflammation.
Silicone gel used for scar treatment is usually in the form of paint-on gel ointments or self-adhesive sheets. Generally, silicone sheets are placed and sealed over the scar and should be worn for about 12 hours per day. The sheets require daily removal, washing, and reapplication. Newer gel ointments can be painted or rubbed into a scar and do not require removal, washing, or avoidance of other skin care products. Both have been equally effective at scar treatment and reduction.
Since 2006, silicone gel has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in breast implants as well as other cosmetic implants. The gel, which is thicker than the saline solution commonly found in other implants, is less likely to leak if the implant is damaged. Silicone implants are also firmer than saline implants, and cannot be compressed to the same degree. This impacts the process of cosmetic surgery, and surgeons must make a larger incision to allow for the less flexible implant. There has been concern about whether or not silicone gel implants increased the occurrence of cancer, but a lengthy study has found no link between implants and an increased risk of cancer in patients.
Silicone gel is commonly found in many other areas of medicine due to its favorable properties. It is resistant to water, resistant to other chemicals and bodily fluids, able to withstand both high and low temperatures, elastic, and non-toxic. Its durability and flexibility, coupled with the fact that it can be fashioned into liquids, oils, and solids, make it a common find in prosthetic devices throughout the body.