Body Implants: A New Generation of Implants

Reviewed by Adrien Aiache, MD

This article covers the following topics:

Body implants are often used in cosmetic plastic surgery to change and shape the appearance of specific body areas, especially the buttocks, chest, calf, and bicep.

Implants are made of a firm, semi-solid, rubberized silicone material that fits in front of the bones without being absorbed by the body. The material is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is considered safe. Implants come in a variety of sizes and shapes.

Are Body Implants Right for Me?

There is no substitute for eating well and engaging in regular exercise, but sometimes this just isn't enough. Aging and genetics can interfere with even the most effective exercise program. Body implants do not stop the aging process, but they can permanently correct disproportionate features that occur as a result of your age or your genes.

Candidates for body implants also include individuals with disorders such as:

  • Poliomyelitis, or polio – an infection that causes paralysis
  • Spina bifida – a neural tube defect in which the bones of the spine do not form properly around the spinal cord
  • Club foot – a congenital defect of the foot that can affect calf appearance

Other Options

In addition to body implants, many other methods are available to sculpt or add volume or contour to certain parts of the body, including liposuction and fat transfer. Which method is right for you is determined based on the specific body part you are seeking to correct or augment and your existing anatomy. This decision is best made in conjunction with a board-certified plastic surgeon who has experience with all body contouring methods. Start your search now.

The Body Implant Procedure

The body implant procedure should be performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon. The surgery may take place in a doctor's office, outpatient surgery center or hospital. Time in surgery is about two hours. The procedure is typically performed under conscious sedation, also known as "twilight" sedation, although general anesthesia is sometimes warranted. The implants most commonly used are buttocks, penis, chest, calf, bicep and tricep implants. Other body implants include shoulder muscle (deltoid), abdominal muscle, forearm muscle, wrist and thigh implants. Some people may opt for more than one type of implant to achieve their desired results.

Buttocks Implant

During the butt implant procedure, an incision up to three inches long will be made at the midline of the buttocks. The surgeon will form a pocket for the implant to fit in and insert the implant through the incision. The implant will be positioned within a soft tissue area of muscle and fat. This area will form scar tissue to help keep the implant in place. Stitches that dissolve will be placed at the incision area. A bandage will be applied to reduce swelling and discomfort. You can usually return home within two hours of this procedure. Another buttock-enhancing option is the Brazilian butt lift.

Calf Implant

During the calf implant procedure, an incision will be made in the natural crease line behind your knee. The surgeon will insert the implant through the incision and place it in a specially formed pocket. The implant will be positioned on the upper inside or outside of the leg (or both) within a soft tissue area of muscle and fat. Scar tissue will form in this area to help keep the implant from migrating.

Bicep and Tricep Implants

During your bicep or tricep implant procedure, an incision will be made in an inconspicuous place at the top of your armpit. After creating a pocket for the implant in a soft tissue area of muscle and fat, the surgeon will insert the implant through the incision. Following surgery, scar tissue will develop in the area to keep the implant from moving. A bandage will be applied to reduce discomfort.

Pectoral Implants

Male breast implants are becoming increasingly popular among men looking to improve the look of their chest. Made of solid silicone, pec implants are much firmer than female breast implants and come in many shapes and sizes. They are designed to feel like natural chest muscle.

To perform pectoral implant surgery, your surgeon typically will make an incision through your armpit, your areola (the pigmented ring around the nipple) or your lower breast. He or she will then create a pocket under the major chest muscle or under the thin connective tissue that covers this muscle. The implant will then be inserted into the pocket, where it will be secured in place using dissolving stitches.

Penis Implant

Penis implants may help some men with erectile dysfunction who do not respond to drugs, suppositories, vacuum devices or injections. These implants can help men achieve and maintain an erection, but they will not increase penis length or improve sexual desire or sensation. There are two main types of penis implants: inflatable implants and semi-rigid rods. Penis implant surgery is typically covered by insurance, but precertification is often required.

Complications and Risks

Complications are possible in any medical procedure. Swelling and bruising often occur after body implant surgery and will subside within several days. There may also be some scarring, depending on the incision pattern and the type of implant.

Other risks of body implants include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Hematoma (a break in a blood vessel, causing localized pooling of blood that may clot)
  • Seroma (accumulation of fluid)
  • Muscle or nerve damage
  • Asymmetry
  • Implant shifting
  • Cosmetic dissatisfaction

Body implants are considered permanent. Removal requires another surgery.

A frank discussion with your surgeon about the specific risks of your procedure should take place before you book your body implant surgery. Your surgeon should also provide you with comprehensive preoperative and postoperative instructions. Adhering to these guidelines can help minimize your risks and maximize the results of your body implant surgery.

Costs

In general, body implant costs include local or general anesthesia fees, facility fees, surgeon's fees and implant fees. Body implants may be performed with other procedures, and anesthesia and facility fees may be combined. The total fee for implants can range from a minimum of $3,000 to $5,000 or more.

Every surgery is unique, and there are many implant options. More meaningful estimates can be made after your doctor has developed a personalized surgical plan.

Implant surgery to treat a traumatic injury or for another medically necessary purpose may be partly or fully covered under your insurance plan. Implant surgery for cosmetic purposes is typically not covered. If the cost of the implant surgery is difficult for you, ask your surgeon about payment plans. For financing options and tips, continue reading about patient financing.

About the Reviewer of This Article

Adrien Aiache, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon who practices in Beverly Hills, California. He is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Aiache is a pioneer in the development of calf and other body implant surgery. He is a founding member and Director of the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation. Dr. Aiache has also taught courses and presented lectures for audiences in the medical community, including the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, on topics such as breast and abdomen surgery, fat transplantation and calf implants.