Large and shapely calves may appear beautiful in the eyes of some individuals, but they can also be considered too bulky. For patients seeking slim legs via calf reduction procedures, there are a number of different contouring procedures that plastic surgeons employ to eliminate bulky calves. From non-surgical methods such as Botox injections, to calf liposuction and more invasive procedures that involve muscle removal, thick calves can be corrected.
- Types of Procedures
- Before & Aftercare
- Pros & Cons
- Side Effects
- List of Sources
An individual's calf size can have a big psychological impact on everyday life, from wardrobe choices to perceived appearance and self-confidence. Whereas some bodybuilders strive to build their lower leg muscles with various weightlifting techniques to increase calf muscle definition, other people seek thinner, sleeker, and more feminine-looking calves. As a result, there are a variety of invasive and non-invasive means of reducing calf size.
Types of Calf Reduction Procedures
Calf reduction surgeries are growing in popularity, especially among women in South Korea who want to emulate the lithe look of Los Angeles celebrities with long and slim calves. Some women with short and thick calves seek slender legs, specifically considering the way that high heels emphasize their calf size. Following are some of the most common procedures performed to reduce the size of large, bulging calves:
Calf Reduction by Muscle Resection One method of plastic surgery for changing the shape of the lower leg involves muscle resection. This procedure removes a portion of the gastrocnemius muscle in the calves. Muscle resection is the most drastic and aggressive of all calf reduction procedures and has had varied results. Some studies have shown that removing a piece of the muscle resulted in no impairments of athletic abilities while others have reported temporary complications in patients’ ability to walk and bothersome scarring.
Calf Reduction by Selective Nerve Blocking Calf muscles can be reduced using selective nerve blocking. The minimally invasive surgical procedure is also called calf neurectomy and involves cutting nerves that control the calf muscles. With the calf muscles receiving fewer signals to flex, the lower leg muscles begin to atrophy and reduce in size.
Non-surgical methods of calf reduction Individuals with overly muscular calves or those with unflattering fat stores in the lower legs who want to reduce calf size and circumference without undergoing surgery have less-invasive options to choose from.
Calf Liposuction Energy assisted liposuction techniques, especially vaser lipo, can help patients who suffer from outsized calves as a result of excess fat. Liposuction in the calf area helps reduce fat and tighten the skin. This procedure only treats excess fat and is most effective when defining the contours of the calves around the knees and ankles. If the patient is concerned about large calves due to hypertrophied muscle tissue, additional procedures will be required.
Calf Reduction by Botox® Injections Patients seeking a minimally invasive procedure to gradually reduce large calf muscles can rely upon the same kinds of muscle relaxing injections used for anti-wrinkle treatments in other parts of the body. In the same manner that botulinum toxin shots relax facial muscles that cause wrinkles to form, Botox® injections can reduce calf size. Studies have shown that Botox® injections directly into the gastrocnemius muscle can reduce overall circumference with no negative impact upon calf function being observed. Maintenance treatments are needed to see continued results.
Calf Reduction by Radiofrequency Nerve and Muscle Ablation Radiofrequency calf reduction and muscle ablation are other popular methods of contouring the lower legs by using RF energy to reduce the calf muscle by affecting the accompanying nerves. The process involves parts of the gastrocnemius muscle being burned off as well as nerve bundles being severed to cease the growth of portions of the calves.
Ideal Candidates for Calf Reduction
The ideal candidates for calf reduction procedures include overall healthy individuals who desire more symmetrical or slimmer calves. Optimal calf muscle reduction patients who seek muscle resection surgery include people who are not happy with the contours of their lower legs, especially those with congenitally bulky or tubular legs, or those suffering from severe calf hypertrophy.
The American Society of Plastic Surgery reports that liposuction is often most effective on the upper portions of the legs, such as the thigh area. Liposuction is not as effective when performed on lower portions of the leg, and its slimming effects depend upon factors such as the individual's leg length and skin elasticity. However, ideal patients for ultrasound or laser-assisted calf liposuction include those with excess fat in their calves.
Ideal calf reduction patients are those who understand the risks of the selected procedure and hold realistic expectations about the outcome. It is essential that patients realize that in the wake of a more aggressive procedure, calf muscle compensation may occur and result in a recurrence of large lower leg muscles.
Not Recommended For & Contraindications
The American Society of Plastic Surgery notes that not everyone is a good candidate for liposuction of the legs, including people who have excess amounts of loose skin, such as those patients who have undergone a large amount of weight loss. Those cases may necessitate skin removal as well as fat removal via liposuction to create slimmer calves.
Additionally, calf reduction surgery might cause more problems for overweight patients. Calf reduction surgery to reduce muscular hypertrophy may exacerbate knee joint degeneration in obese patients since the knees begin to bear more of a weight load in the wake of surgery.
Calf Reduction Cost
The cost to reduce the size of the calves can range greatly based upon the method of calf reduction used. Liposuction costs are approximately $4,400 or more, with prices fluctuating due to patient-specific factors, geographic location, and expertise of the surgeon. Prices vary, with the average cost of calf reduction procedures being $6,250.
Recovery from Calf Reduction
Recovery periods for calf reduction procedures vary based on the treatment received. After calf reduction surgery, patients will be advised to wear compression socks or tights for a least three months to help the healing process and create slimmer calves.
There will likely be pain and a change in walking patterns for two weeks after surgery since treatment generally affects the muscles and nerves of the lower legs. The inability to perform explosive muscular movements until the area heals may be experienced during recovery from calf reduction surgery.
If liposuction was undergone to reduce the calves, a recovery period of approximately one week will be needed, while Botox® injections require little to no recovery time, with the ability to return to normal activities immediately.
Before and Aftercare for Calf Reduction
Before selecting a procedure for calf reduction, it is vital that patients schedule several consultations with knowledgeable board-certified plastic surgeons to understand all the risks of each treatment. A qualified medical expert can help you determine if you are an ideal candidate for calf reduction surgery or a combination of treatments. After receiving calf reduction, patients are often instructed to wear elastic or compression stockings for several months.
Pros & Cons of Calf Reduction Procedures
Calf reduction treatments can provide patients with an increased sense of well-being and an enhanced self-esteem, especially for patients who have avoided wearing shorts, skirts, leggings, and high heels all of their lives due to the size of their calves. Successful calf reduction procedures can provide the slimmer calves that some individuals have always craved.
However, some disadvantages of calf reduction treatments have also been reported including:
- Tiredness while walking, which went away within six months
- Scar pigmentation issues, which were also resolved within six months
- Calf asymmetry
While treatment can be very successful with little effect on long-term mobile ability and calf circumference reductions of almost 3 inches for some patients, minor complications such as irregularity in the surface of the calf and localized hematoma may be observed. Other serious complications may include muscle edema and necrosis.
Side Effects of Calf Reduction Procedures
The American Society of Plastic Surgery reports that surgeries such as calf reduction procedures that remove muscle tissue include the potential risks:
- Blood clots
- Prolonged pain
While it is common to expect certain levels of discomfort after calf reduction surgery - especially while recovering from more invasive procedures - it is critical to reaching out to your provider if things go wrong. If you experience persistent side effects such as swelling, numbness, or extremely painful symptoms that do not show signs of improvement, contact your physician right away.
Conclusion: Determine Your Best Calf Reduction Options
In the end, the patient must weigh their options for calf reduction with the help of an expert board-certified plastic surgeon. The medical professional can help the patient determine if the outsized calves are the result of excess fat, large muscles, or a combination of both. The best treatment plan can then be assessed, which may include Botox® injections, radiofrequency calf reduction sessions, or the actual removal of portions of calf muscles.
The individual patient should be informed of all the risks, including the limitations as mentioned earlier in the range of motion, potential temporary changes in walking patterns, and other possible side effects that accompany any surgery. Those factors include pain, infection, bleeding, and swelling. Overall, the person seeking calf reduction treatments should weigh the risk versus reward in having their troublesome calf issue corrected.
List of Sources
- Safety and Efficacy of Selective Neurectomy of the Gastrocnemius Muscle for Calf Reduction in 300 Cases.
- Severe equinus deformity after radiofrequency-induced calf muscle reduction.
- Endoscope-assisted calf reduction in Orientals.
- Botulinum Toxin A for Aesthetic Contouring of Enlarged Medial Gastrocnemius Muscle
- American Society of Plastic Surgery: How can plastic surgery make my legs thinner?
- PubMed: The resection of gastrocnemius muscles in aesthetically disturbing calf hypertrophy.
- Subtotal resection of gastrocnemius muscles for hypertrophic muscular calves in Asians.