What It's Really Like To Get Pectoral Implants
Breast augmentation surgery is one of the most mainstream cosmetic procedures in the U.S., but men also look to cosmetic surgeons to address issues they have with their chest area. Men often seek the help of plastic surgery to increase the size of their pectoral muscles and do so for a variety of reasons, from age-related muscle loss to unsuccessful hours in the gym that still haven’t resulted in their dream body. We spoke to board certified dermatologic surgeon Jason Emer, MD about pectoral augmentation, as well as to three patients who have undergone the procedure to find out what it’s really like.
What You Need to Know About Pectoral Implants
The types of male patients who consult Dr. Emer for pectoral implant procedures vary, from younger patients who have chest deformities and would like help with the ‘caved in’ look of their chest to patients who want a more toned or lifted chest area. There are also older patients who come to him after they have tried toning their body through exercise and diet, but have not been able to achieve the look they want. Depending on the desired result and the patient's physique before treatment, Dr. Emer either uses fat injections and platelet-rich plasma or customized chest implants. The implants are positioned under the muscle to achieve a natural-looking result and he makes sure that the implants are in line with patients’ overall body type.
It usually takes around one to two weeks for the pain to subside post-procedure, and during that time, there will also be some discomfort when patients raise their arms. About a month after the procedure, swelling should be gone and patients can return to the gym. Dr. Emer advises listening to your body during the recovery process; if an activity is painful, stop doing it, but some tightness or soreness is expected. There is minimal scarring associated with this surgery. The surgeon will place a small incision in the armpit and it is barely visible once it has healed. Dr. Emer uses scar gels straight after the surgery and patients can undergo laser treatment as early as six weeks after having the procedure if they choose. Scars around the chest area are usually avoided, unless the patient is undergoing female-to-male gender-affirming surgery or for those who are having their chest lifted at the same time.
As the body ages, the skin begins to sag, so patients who have pec implant surgery may also require skin removal in the area to maintain their desired look. Dr. Emer suggests looking at the implant as the foundation that gives the area its contour, but excess fat or sagging skin will likely be treated separately. To give the best results, Dr. Emer often combines the implant procedure with liposuction, gland removal, and nipple lifting, which help to maintain the look for as long as possible. The implant itself lasts forever, but if you become unhappy with how the area looks after the procedure, get in touch with your practitioner to see how your results can be further improved.
Jackson*, Miami, FL
Jackson suffered muscle loss after undergoing cancer treatment and struggled to regain definition. He consulted a plastic surgeon to discuss his options and he decided on custom silicone implants as they offered the best way for him to regain the look he lost through his treatment. He said the surgery allowed him to become more physically and emotionally confident after a tough time.
The AEDITION: What questions did you have for your surgeon during your consultation?
Jackson: I had a lot of questions for my surgeon. They reassured me about the risks associated with the surgery and took a lot of time to discuss exactly what kind of results I was looking for. I had questions about how the procedure worked, about recovery, and about scarring. The last thing I wanted was to make the appearance of my chest worse with a bunch of scars! The medical team explained the whole process and were honest about the recovery process, about the need to wear a compression garment to help with healing, and about the level of discomfort I would experience during recovery.
The AEDITION: What was the recovery process like?
Jackson: The recovery process was somewhat uncomfortable since there is a fair amount of tightness and soreness when you start trying to do more after the first few days of rest. I was given an approximate schedule of when I could restart certain activities like heavy lifting and the timings were pretty accurate. I knew from my previous experience that following doctors’ instructions to the letter is key, so I made sure to do things like set timers to take my pain medication on time.
The AEDITION: Are you pleased with the results?
Jackson: The results have been life-changing. I didn’t have the procedure to comply with anyone else’s standards, I just wanted to get back to who I had been before cancer treatment and find my self-confidence again. It was a small piece of a huge puzzle, but the surgery was a big step towards making a full recovery. I don’t look in the mirror and see someone who has been sick anymore; I see someone who takes care of themselves. My surgeon took time to carefully look through old photos so they could reconstruct the area to how it was before treatment and they did an amazing job.
Luke*, New York, NY
Despite hours in the gym, Luke wasn’t able to get the chest definition he longed for. He spent significant amounts of money with personal trainers, following specific diets, and even taking supplements. After one of his friends suggested talking to a plastic surgeon about his issue, he ended up having a combination of pectoral implants and liposuction to achieve his goal.
The AEDITION: How did you come to the decision to go ahead with surgery?
Luke: I think a lot of people who look how I looked before the surgery would have been happy, but I was determined to have more toned chest muscles. No matter how much time I dedicated to working out or how clean I ate, I just couldn’t achieve the result I pictured. I think a lot of it comes from genetics, so eventually my friend recommended his surgeon to me and I went to have a consult. I was already spending so much money trying to achieve it naturally, I figured I could cut to the chase.
The AEDITION: Did the results match your expectations?
Luke: They did. I was very clear with what I wanted and told my surgeon to do whatever was necessary to achieve it. He used a combination of implants and liposuction in the underarm area to make the definition as good as it could be. The scarring is barely noticeable and I have the option of having further treatment on it if I want to, but for now I’m pleased with how it looks. It was my first cosmetic surgery and I wouldn’t hesitate to have more in the future.
The AEDITION: Do you have any advice for patients who are considering having the same procedures?
Luke: Accept that your activity level is going to be limited for a period after the procedure. If you can, ask your boss to work from home for the better part of a month or keep your time in the office to a minimum. If that’s not a possibility, definitely take the first two weeks off. When I told my friends that I was having the procedure, some of their reactions were harsh. Make sure you’re prepared for that. Always keep the final result in mind, it’s a big motivator.
David*, Cleveland, OH
David experienced age-related muscle loss in his chest and consulted his cosmetic surgeon to discuss treatment options. He had a combination of fat transfer and implants to give him natural-looking results and was determined that he wanted the results to remain true to his age, but look like a better version of himself.
The AEDITION: How did the procedure go for you?
David: I have been in the surgical suite before so I knew what to expect. It was not a particularly painful recovery, but it was quite long, probably due in part to my age. I stayed away from any strenuous activity for six weeks to make sure everything was healed and there was no more pain, and then I went back to everything as normal.
The AEDITION: Do you have any advice for patients who are having the same procedure?
David: Prepare your home carefully so you have everything you’ll need as soon as you get home. It’s good to have family around after surgery but they will be stressed and tired too, so keep things as easy as possible. For this procedure, there is discomfort when lifting your arms for some time after the surgery, so think about arranging the house to help with that. It isn’t too bad of a recovery, really.
The AEDITION: Are the results in line with what you had expected?
David: It was not my first cosmetic surgery and I have a good relationship with my surgeon so he gave me a realistic idea of what results could be achieved. There was some swelling and it takes some time for the area to settle down, so it took a little while before I could see the final result. But once I did, I was very happy. It was exactly what I was looking for and the results are discrete. I spend a lot of my time on vacation so it is very nice to be able to lounge by the pool without feeling like I look very old and out of shape anymore!
*The patient’s name has been changed.