People pursue cosmetic surgery for many reasons, and that’s no different when it comes to pec implants.
Pectoral augmentation — or “pec implants” — adds definition and contour to your chest. It can be used as:
- a reconstructive surgery after an injury or illness
- to combat lackluster results in the gym
- as female-to-male gender confirmation surgery
Successful pec augmentation uses a silicone gel implant to extend the depth of your muscle so it appears more chiseled and defined.
Let’s take a look at what to expect when you get pec implants, including preparation, the procedure itself, and recovery.
When you’re preparing for pec implant surgery, you should make sure you know how much it’ll cost before moving ahead with the procedure.
Most insurance plans don’t typically cover this surgery. If the surgery isn’t covered, you’ll be responsible for paying for everything from the anesthesiologist to the supplies they use to sterilize the room.
Ask your provider for an estimate of the cost breakdown before you make your appointment.
At a consultation before your surgery, your doctor will take your health history and measure your pectoralis muscles. You’ll have a conversation about your expectations and decide together whether you’re a good candidate for the procedure.
Your provider will likely show you before-and-after photos and ask for your input before choosing which size implant will be best for you.
Plans for before and after surgery
In the weeks prior to your surgery, take any medications that have been prescribed to you and follow your doctor’s instructions.
Generally it’s advised that you stop smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking any blood thinning medication for 2 weeks before your surgery.
You’ll also need to make a plan for your recovery.
The night before your surgery appointment, set up a clean, relaxing place where you can recover. Make sure your sheets are freshly washed.
You’ll need to fast the night before the surgery unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Pec implants are done under general anesthesia, and you may feel some pain when you wake up. That means you’ll need someone to pick you up and drive you home when the procedure is finished.
If you’re not able to work from home, it’s generally recommended that you take 1 to 2 weeks off from work afterward.
This surgery focuses on your upper chest where your pectoral muscles are, right over your breastbone.
The pectoralis major is a fan-shaped muscle that overlaps the tissue over your heart and part of your rib cage and extends back toward your armpit.
Your chest area will be shaved as you enter the operating room. You’ll be injected with local anesthesia (a numbing solution), so you won’t feel anything that happens during surgery.
You’ll likely have general anesthesia, meaning you’ll be completely unconscious, though this will depend on your health history.
During the pectoral implant surgery, your surgeon will make an incision where your pectoralis major meets your pectoralis minor — right at the crease of your armpit.
An implant made of a solid silicone gel material will be inserted underneath your skin between these two muscles. Your doctor will then close the incision with small stitches, doing so in a way that’ll minimize visible scarring.
The entire procedure should only take between 1 and 2 hours.
You’ll then go to a recovery room as the effects of the anesthesia wear off. In most cases, you can go home the same day as your procedure.
After a pec implant surgery, you’ll experience some:
- drainage from the area of your incision
Symptoms of pain and swelling may continue until your incision heals, which takes approximately 14 days.
You’ll likely have drainage tubes to divert fluid from your wound as it begins to heal.
The drainage tubes are temporary and are usually removed within a few days or up to 1 week. You’ll be given instructions on how to care for the drains.
You’ll also likely need to wear a compression vest or garment for up to 6 weeks to help with swelling.
What to avoid
While you recover, you’ll need to take it easy. That means that you’ll need to avoid:
- raising your arms above your head
- lifting things
- engaging in any type of manual labor
- working out at the gym
- wearing underarm deodorant for the first 7 to 14 days
What to do
A lot of self-care goes into recovery after pec implant surgery. As you recover, remember these tips:
- Drink lots of water and eat a balanced diet of fiber-rich foods, which may help speed your recovery and keep you from feeling groggy while you rest.
- Gentle movement, like taking a walk, can also help with drainage and swelling.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions exactly, and take any medications as prescribed.
- Wear your compression garment, which your doctor will recommend, over your chest area during this initial healing phase.
Long-term recovery and maintenance
At a follow-up appointment 2 weeks after your surgery, you’ll likely be cleared by your doctor to resume most of your normal daily activities. Long-term recovery times, however, will vary according to your specific health factors.
You may have to wait several months to be able to resume weight lifting and strenuous upper-body workouts. Ask your surgeon what to expect as far as longer-term recovery and follow their instructions.
Pec implants are meant to last about 10 years. After that time, you’ll need to have a consultation with your doctor about having it removed or replaced.
Like every type of surgery, pec implants can result in complications.
Infection can happen in the initial 30 days after your surgery. You can significantly reduce your risk of infection by:
- making sure that the incision area is clean
- keeping up with your hygiene during recovery
- following your doctor’s advice about when to resume your normal activities
Your physician may prescribe antibiotics to take after surgery to help decrease the risk of infection.
You should call your provider or seek medical attention immediately if you suspect an infection. Signs of infection include fever and cloudy fluid drainage from your wound.
Other potential complications include:
- hematomas (a blood-filled sac under your skin) and seromas (a collection of fluid under your skin)
- muscle spasms and numbness in your upper arms
- keloid scarring, which is typically minimal but may be visible
- asymmetry between the implant placement, which occasionally requires correction
- implants shifting from their original placement, which also requires correction
- capsular contracture, which is a thickening of the scar tissue around the implant that can cause pain, displacement, and increased visibility of the edge of the implant
Pec implants aren’t the only option for people who want more definition in their chest. Another procedure that can be performed is fat grafting to your chest and pectoralis muscle.
In this procedure, liposuction is performed on another part of your body as well as below and to the sides of your pectoralis muscle to make your pecs appear more defined.
Some of the removed fat is injected below the skin of your pectoralis muscle area as well as into the muscle itself to increase the size.
Some of the fat does melt away, so you may need up to three fat grafting procedures to obtain the desired size. These procedures are usually several months apart.
Pec implants are a fairly common surgery and have been performed regularly for decades. People get pec implants for a variety of reasons, including as reconstructive and gender-affirming surgeries.
If you’re in good health and aren’t prone to keloid scarring, your chances of having a successful pec implant surgery are high. Recovery takes about 2 weeks, and you’ll need to be cleared by your doctor before you resume working out.
If you have unrealistic expectations of what this surgery can do or if you have muscle dysmorphia, it’s possible that you won’t be pleased with the results of your procedure.
Be open and honest with your provider about the look you hope to achieve, and do your research before choosing a cosmetic surgeon.