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Risks and Side Effects of Gynecomastia Surgery

Reviewed by Walter Erhardt, MD

Male breast reduction surgery to treat gynecomastia (enlarged male breasts) can provide an important boost to your self-esteem and improve your quality of life, but this surgery does confer its share of risks. Liposuction, which is often used in gynecomastia treatment, is also associated with certain risks.

Gynecomastia surgery risks include:

  • Scarring
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Anesthesia risks
  • Poor wound healing
  • Temporary or permanent changes in nipple or breast sensation
  • Breast contour and shape irregularities
  • Breast asymmetry
  • Skin discoloration
  • Permanent pigmentation changes
  • Damage to the nerves, blood vessels, muscles and lungs
  • Allergic reactions to surgical materials
  • Death of fatty tissue deep in the skin (called fat necrosis)
  • Fluid accumulation
  • Deep vein thrombosis (blood clots)
  • Cardiac and pulmonary complications
  • Pain
  • Possibility of revision surgery for additional tightening or repositioning of the breasts
  • Death

Sometimes liposuction is done in conjunction with gynecomastia surgery or on its own to treat enlarged breasts in men.

The risks of liposuction for gynecomastia include:

  • Uneven contours
  • Rippling or loose skin
  • Irregular pigmentation
  • Excessive fluid loss
  • Fluid accumulation
  • Infection
  • Blood clots in the lung (pulmonary emboli)
  • Hematoma (a collection of blood in the areas suctioned)
  • Temporary numbness or discoloration in the treated area
  • Asymmetry, dimpling, wrinkling, unevenness and surface irregularities over the treated area
  • Perforation wounds in surrounding tissue or organs
  • Anesthesia reactions
  • Swelling
  • Burns (from ultrasound-assisted and laser-assisted liposuction)
  • Death

If you experience shortness of breath, chest pains, or unusual heartbeats after the procedure, contact your surgeon immediately. These complications may require hospitalization and additional treatment.

Many of these risks can be minimized or prevented altogether by choosing a qualified, board-certified plastic surgeon and following his or her instructions carefully. For example, taking your antibiotics as directed can help stave off an infection. Being vigilant for signs and symptoms of an infection (fever above 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit and redness, discharge and/or foul smell at the incision sites) can also help minimize any damage that an infection can cause.

Early ambulation (moving about) will improve circulation, and can help reduce your risk of developing a blood clot during your male breast reduction recovery.

Your surgeon should discuss the potential risks of male breast reduction surgery during your initial consultation. Start your search for a surgeon now.