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Body Implants including pectoral or chest implants for men, bicep, calf and buttock implants have become popular in recent years, although they are still quite rare. These implants are nearly always made using silicone as the implant material. The following information focuses on the pectoral implant procedure to give you an idea of what happens during a body implant operation. Male chest implants are usually placed under a general anaesthetic but local anaesthetic injections, along with a mild sedative to make you drowsy may be used. Most people find that they can return to work within a week and are able to resume all activities within a month. It is highly unlikely that anyone considering body implants would be able to access this free of charge on the National Health Service (NHS). Private costs for silicone body implants can range from approximately £3,000 to £6,000 depending on the type of implant and where it is placed.
Facial implants were first used for reconstruction for birth defects and trauma related incidents such as scarring after accidents, in the late 1950s. Body implants have been used in a similar way to correct defects, which have existed since birth, or to put right tissue loss, which has occurred through injury or disease.
Breast implants have been in use since the 1960s to help women who have lost a breast due to mastectomy, as well as providing cosmetic enhancement for women with small breasts.
Testicular implants have also been made for men to replace tissue loss due to removal of a testicle.
In recent years, implants have been increasingly used to improve areas of our bodies purely for cosmetic purposes.
Some men (particularly bodybuilders) choose to have silicone pectoral implants placed behind the muscles in their chest wall to bulk out their chest and give it more shape.
In the U.S. according to statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) in 2018 there were 26,774 buttock augmentation procedures (note: this combines figures for both implants and fat transfer) carried out. This is an increase of 15.8% compared to 2017 figures and moves it from the 15th most popular surgical procedure in 2014 to the 12th in 2018.
There are no similar detailed statistics available for the United Kingdom as yet, but this type of cosmetic surgery is becoming increasingly popular in this country too.
(Image courtesy of Euromedical Systems Ltd).
Other parts of the body that are being improved in this way include calf, biceps and buttock implants. These implants are nearly always made using silicone as the implant material, but such operations are quite rare at present.
For the purposes of giving you an idea of what happens during a body implant operation, we have focussed on a chest or pectoral procedure.
If you are considering this form of procedure, the following information will give you a basic understanding about what's involved. It can't answer all your questions, since a lot depends on the individual patient and the surgeon.
Please ask a surgeon about anything you don't understand.
In your first discussion with a practitioner, you should explain what you expect from the procedure and how you would like to look afterwards. He or she should tell you exactly what will be involved, and discuss any potential complications and the recovery process following any operation. He should also tell you whether he can achieve the results you desire.
A medical history should be taken by the practitioner to make sure that there are no reasons why you shouldn’t have an implant. Once this is established, you would normally be asked to read detailed information and sign a consent form, which means that you have understood the potential benefits and risks associated with the procedure.
Photographs may also be taken by the practitioner for use as a “before and after” comparison at a later date.
Local anaesthetic injections, along with a mild sedative to make you drowsy, may be used, or a full general anaesthetic may be recommended by your surgeon.
As in any surgical procedure, the use of a general anaesthetic carries a small additional risk, which your practitioner will discuss with you. No form of anaesthetic will be given to you without your surgeon discussing it with you first.
Male chest implants are usually performed in an outpatient surgical centre. This can either be operated by your surgeon separately or be part of a hospital. The operation may take from 1 – 2 hours to perform.
Procedures vary depending upon the surgeon and implant used, but as a guide you may expect the following…
Surgeons most often begin pectoral implant surgery by making a small cut in the armpit, and then inserting the implant endoscopically. Endoscopic surgery involves using a thin tube with a very small camera on the end in order to guide the doctor through the patient’s body with a great amount of precision. This method reduces the size of the cut needed as well as bleeding. Non-endoscopic methods are sometimes preferred, however.
Following the path of the incision, the surgeon places the implants under the pectoral muscle. The incisions are then stitched and the surgery is complete. The implants are held in place by the overlying chest muscle or by stitches that are temporarily visible through the skin. Occasionally temporary drain tubes are also inserted to help remove any excess blood and fluid.
The implants are usually made of solid silicone which is a soft and flexible material (similar to that used for sports mouth guards). These are different from the breast implants used in women which contain silicone gel. There is no danger of male pectoral implants bursting or leaking.
No repeat procedure is required for synthetic implants as their effect is permanent and the implants are designed to last a lifetime. Unless serious complications occur, no more surgery is usually required.
You should be able to return home soon after the procedure, and most patients find that they can return to work within a week. Most patients are able to resume all activities within a month.
Side Effects and Risks
The amount of pain experienced varies from person to person, and depends on the method used. In general, pectoral implant procedures that use endoscopic surgery reduce bleeding and incision size. The amount of pain, therefore, may be less in endoscopic surgery. Soreness, bruising and swelling are also common but should fade within a week or so.
Scars will gradually fade over time, but in a small proportion of patients, there is a risk that scars may thicken and become more obvious.
Risks or complications that may occur include:
It is very important that you follow the advice of your practitioner carefully after an implant of any kind to help to improve the benefit of the procedure and reduce the risk of complications or side effects.
Post-treatment advice may include:
First and foremost, an individual must be in good health, not have any active diseases or existing medical conditions and must have realistic expectations of the outcome of the surgery.
If you are prone to keloid (red, angry, raised) scars, or have a history of problems with wound healing your surgeon may not recommend this procedure or may caution you that scars could be raised and very visible.
Who Can Do It
Only fully trained and qualified surgeons should perform a body implant operation.
As body implants are not common cosmetic surgery procedures, it is important to find a surgeon who has some specialist expertise and experience in performing this type of surgery.
For more information about practitioner training, qualifications and relevant medical organisations please view the information contained within the Legislation section of the Consulting Room.
It is highly unlikely that anyone considering a silicone body implant would be able to access this free of charge on the National Health Service.
However certain regions do make special cases where defects arise from trauma, and we would always recommend that you visit your General Practitioner before embarking upon a cosmetic procedure involving surgery.
As well as their advice and guidance they may also be able to refer you to a local NHS Hospital who can treat you.
The NHS has set out the following guidelines on how to get cosmetic surgery through the NHS:
"To qualify for surgery on the NHS you must meet specific criteria as set out by your local health authority. The NHS will not pay for surgery for cosmetic reasons alone. Reconstructive and cosmetic surgery to correct, or improve, congenital abnormalities and injuries will usually be carried out free of charge.
NHS reconstructive surgery is performed by plastic surgeons who have had extensive training and belong to the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons. Surgeons who carry out cosmetic surgery through the NHS also belong to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.
To receive cosmetic surgery from the NHS, you will normally need a referral from your GP. You will have a consultation with a plastic surgeon and an assessment by a psychiatrist, or psychologist. It will then be decided whether there is enough social, psychological, or physical benefit to be gained to justify surgery."
Private prices for body silicone implants, such as pectoral, calf and buttock implants can range from approximately £3,000 to £6,000 depending on the type of implant and where it is placed.
Silicone pectoral implants, or implants of any kind placed behind muscles, will enlarge the bulk of those muscles, but will not improve their definition or muscly shape.
Increasing the definition of your muscles must be accomplished through exercise.
Movement and activity should not be restricted or made difficult after a full recovery. On the other hand, the silicone implants in no way add strength or power to the existing muscles.
In some cases, implants can be combined with liposuction in order to create optimal results. That it is to say, excess fat can be “sucked out” of your chest, at the same time as silicone implants are added to create extra bulk.
Body implants can make a considerable difference to people born with birth defects affecting muscle growth in certain areas of their body, or in people who have lost tissue owing to disease or injury.
Patients undergoing implant surgery purely to improve an otherwise normal body shape must carefully consider the reasons for undergoing this type of surgery. They must make sure that they have realistic expectations of the outcome and that it will affect their lives in a positive way.
Before and After Pictures
Please note that results of cosmetic surgery vary enormously, depending upon both the patient and the skill of the individual surgeon, so outcomes for procedures will always be more variable than those for less invasive non-surgical treatments.
(All before and after photographs featured are real patients treated by highly experienced surgeons, your results may differ).
Before and After Buttock Lift
Buttock Implant before and after pictures courtesy of Consultant Plastic Surgeon, Mr Christopher Inglefield, BSc, MBBS, FRCS (Plast) at London Bridge Plastic Surgery.