Made in Texas: Meet the woman who underwent the first breast augmentation using silicone implants in a Houston hospital


HOUSTONWelcome to Made in Texas, where we write about products made in the Lone Star State.

Today, we’re featuring the revolutionizing medical device created in Houston in the early 1960s used for the most popular type of cosmetic surgery in the U.S.

The product

Silicone breast implants are a type of medical device used in breast augmentation surgeries to increase breast size, replace breast tissue, or correct developmental issues, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The implants have a silicone outer shell, which can vary in thickness and texture, and are filled with silicone gel.

The FDA only allows women 22 and older to use silicone-filled implants for breast enhancement. For breast reconstruction, women of any age are allowed to use the implants.

Silicone gel implants, which come in many shapes and sizes, are the most widely studied medical device of all time, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

The procedure

Breast augmentation surgery is the most common type of cosmetic procedure in America with 313,735 breast augmentations performed in 2018, according to the last report of the ASPS released last spring.

The surgery involves placing the implant under the breast tissue or chest muscle.

The inventors and the idea behind it

Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin were the plastic surgeons who developed the implants. Both were working in collaboration with the Dow Corning Corporation.

“Gerow squeezed a plastic blood bag and remarked how much it felt like a woman’s breast,” Teresa Riordan, author of Inventing Beauty: A History of the Innovations that have Made Us Beautiful, said in an interview with BBC News. “And he had this ‘A-HA!’ moment, where he first conceived of the silicone breast implant.”

The first woman to get a silicone breast augmentation

In 1962, a woman named Timmy Jean Lindsey became the first woman to undergo a successful breast enlargement procedure, which took place at Jefferson Davis Hospital, according to BBC News.

However, Lindsey never planned on getting the surgery. The mother of six was at the hospital getting a tattoo removed from her breasts when Cronin and Gerow approached her with the opportunity to get the enhancement, according to BBC News.

“I was more concerned about getting my ears pinned back," Lindsey said in an interview with BBC News. "My ears stood out like Dumbo! And they said ‘Oh, we’ll do that too.’”

But before performing the surgery on a human, the doctors did a trial on a dog named Esmeralda, according to a BBC interview with Thomas Biggs, who was a junior resident in plastic surgery working for the doctors.

Biggs said the dog had the implant in for three weeks before it began to bite its stitches and it had to be removed.

Lindsey went from a B cup to a C cup, and the rest is history.

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