Gynecomastia Surgery: Everything You Need to Know

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Breast reduction surgery isn't just for women. Men who feel self-conscious about their chest can have a procedure called gynecomastia surgery to reduce enlarged breast tissue. Here's what you need to know if you're considering this plastic surgery procedure.

What to Know About Gynecomastia Surgery

Verywell / Danie Drankwalter

What is Gynecomastia Surgery?

Gynecomastia is the overdevelopment of breast tissue in men. It differs from excess fat in the breast because gynecomastia describes swollen glandular tissue.

There are several possible causes of gynecomastia, including hormonal imbalances, underlying health conditions, or medication side-effects. Most cases occur during puberty. Newborn babies and older men may also experience gynecomastia.

Surgery isn't necessarily recommended for every person with gynecomastia, and many people don't opt for surgical intervention. Instead, they may focus on addressing the cause or choose to accept their body as is. Oftentimes, gynecomastia will resolve on its own within six months to three years.

Surgery for gynecomastia is also known as reduction mammaplasty.

As a form of cosmetic surgery, gynecomastia procedures are tailored to the patient. An experienced plastic surgeon will consult with the patient to achieve the desired aesthetic look, whether that involves liposuction, tissue excision, excess skin removal, and/or surgical adjustments to the areola.

If one breast is more enlarged than the other, the surgeon will aim to produce an even and symmetrical result.

Contraindications

People with breast cancer or obesity may mistakenly believe they need gynecomastia surgery. However, these conditions are not the same as gynecomastia and require different treatments. Your doctor will perform testing to rule out other causes of enlarged breasts and determine appropriate interventions.

During your consultation and pre-operative physical, your doctor will look to identify contraindications to surgery and general anesthesia. If you have heart or lung issues that make general anesthesia too dangerous, your doctor may suggest alternative forms of sedation for surgery or a different form of treatment for gynecomastia.

Potential Risks

The risks of gynecomastia surgery depend on several individual factors, including the type of sedation that's used, your baseline health, and the skills and experience of your surgeon.

Most patients have gynecomastia surgery under general anesthesia, which always includes the potential for serious complications such as cardiovascular and respiratory risks.

You'll need to watch out for signs of infection after surgery, such as fever, inflammation, swelling, and unusual drainage. Contact your doctor right away if you think you may have an infection.

Although rare, other risks of gynecomastia surgery may include:

  • Fluid collection
  • Irregular or asymmetrical results
  • Loss of skin tissue or loose skin
  • Nipple inversion
  • Numbness
  • Scarring

Choose a board-certified plastic surgeon for gynecomastia surgery to reduce the likelihood of complications.

Purpose of Gynecomastia Surgery

Gynecomastia surgery is an elective, cosmetic procedure intended to reduce the size and improve the appearance of overdeveloped breast tissue in men. Unlike surgery intended to treat breast cancer, gynecomastia surgery only removes the tissue necessary to produce the look that's desired by the patient.

If you're self-conscious about your chest, gynecomastia surgery can boost your self-confidence when going shirtless. It may also make some physical activities more comfortable if the enlarged tissue was causing unpleasant bouncing, rubbing, or chafing.

How to Prepare

Keep these pointers in mind as you get ready to have gynecomastia surgery.

Location

Your procedure will be scheduled at a hospital, an accredited office-based surgical facility, or a licensed ambulatory surgical center. It is usually an outpatient procedure, so you will arrive at the facility and go home on the same day. Due to having anesthesia, you will need to arrange for someone else to drive you home after surgery.

What to Wear

You'll be changing into a hospital gown to have your gynecomastia procedure, so wear loose and comfortable clothing. You should avoid wearing jewelry and follow your doctor's instructions for other requirements on the day of gynecomastia surgery.

To maintain sterile conditions, you may be advised not to wear lotions, deodorant, cologne, and other cosmetics.

Food and Drink

If your gynecomastia surgery is scheduled to be performed under general anesthesia, you'll be advised to stop eating solid food at least eight hours prior to the procedure. An empty stomach before surgery is essential to prevent food or liquid from getting in your lungs and to reduce nausea.

Typically, clear liquids are OK for up to two hours before anesthesia, but your surgeon will advise you on the specific protocol they require. Clear liquids include water, plain tea, black coffee, clear fruit juices (like apple or cranberry juice), and sports drinks.

Medications

Medications and supplements that thin the blood will need to be discontinued before surgery to reduce the risk of bleeding. You'll have a pre-op physical within a few weeks of your procedure, so this is a good time to review your full medical history and discuss how you should manage your medications around the time of your procedure.

Inform your doctor of all medications (prescription, herbal, and over-the-counter) to ensure your safety and avoid complications.

What to Bring

Bring clothing that's easy to change into after your surgery. Choose a shirt that opens in the front, like a button-down or hoodie. Because you may have some fluid drainage near the surgical site, wear darker clothing that you don't mind staining.

Since this surgery is an outpatient procedure, there's no need to pack a lot of extra items or an overnight bag. Leave your valuables at home and bring the essentials, like any necessary paperwork, insurance information, personal identification, and your cell phone.

If you normally wear contacts, your doctor is likely to advise you to bring glasses instead.

Pre-Op Lifestyle Changes

Quitting smoking before surgery is always a good idea to reduce the risk of pneumonia, heart attack, and slow wound healing. Making healthy lifestyle choices, including nutritious foods and regular physical activity will get your body in the best shape for your procedure and recovery.

Protein is particularly helpful for healing, so make sure you consume adequate amounts of protein in the days leading up to your procedure.

What to Expect on the Day of Surgery

Most patients are put under general anesthesia for gynecomastia surgery, but a local anesthetic plus oral sedation is possible in some cases. Depending on the details of your operation, follow your surgeon's instructions to prepare properly and experience and safe and speedy recovery.

Before the Surgery

Arrive at your appointment for gynecomastia surgery on time to avoid any delays in your procedure. You'll be given a hospital gown to change into and the nurse or the doctor will check your vitals.

If you're having general anesthesia, an anesthesiologist will visit you and review what's going to happen. You may have to sign some final paperwork and ask the office staff any last-minute questions before the procedure.

During the Surgery

General anesthesia affects the whole body, so you won't feel anything once it takes effect. If your doctor deems it appropriate for you to be awake for the surgery, you should still be sedated enough to have a pain-free procedure.

Your surgeon may use various tools and techniques to achieve the best results. To remove fatty tissue, liposuction using a cannula (a thin hollow tube) will loosen and suction fat cells. Glandular breast tissues and excess skin is then cut and removed.

After the Surgery

Once gynecomastia surgery is over, you'll be sent home bandaged with drains to collect fluid drainage. Your surgeon will provide you with wound care instructions.

If you had general anesthesia, you'll be able to resume regular eating habits as soon as bowel function resumes. If you have a local anesthetic, there's no waiting time before you can resume eating. Choose light meals and plenty of fluids to avoid nausea in the early stages of coming out of anesthesia.

Regardless of whether you have a local anesthetic or general anesthesia, you'll need to arrange for a driver to bring you home and stay with you for the first night after surgery. Follow the pain medication regimen advised by your surgeon to stay ahead of the pain and begin healing.

Recovery

Plan to take it easy in the first few weeks after gynecomastia surgery. Your body needs time to rest and recover. Jumping back into work or physical activity too soon will do more harm than good. Depending on the nature of your job, you should be able to resume work within ten days of gynecomastia surgery.

If your procedure involved liposuction only, you may be cleared to work and exercise again in a matter of days. The removal of glandular tissue and skin requires additional healing time, so plan to hold off on aerobic exercise for at least two weeks and weight-lifting for four weeks, pending your doctor's approval.

Healing

The healing process after gynecomastia surgery takes time and will involve some level of normal swelling. Your doctor may provide compression garments to provide support and control fluid build-up during the initial stages of recovery.

Until your incisions are fully healed, you'll need to keep them clean and dry. This means no swimming, baths, or hot tubs until your doctor says otherwise.

Coping with Recovery

Perhaps the toughest aspect of coping with recovery from gynecomastia surgery is waiting to see your final results. As you heal from surgery, swelling can make it hard to tell whether your surgery was successful. With time and patience, you'll be able to enjoy the results of your newly shaped chest.

If you're used to working a lot and doing regular exercise, recovery can start to get a little boring. Prepare for this downtime before surgery by stocking up on books, movies, and things you can do around the house that won't put too much strain on your healing body.

Use pain medication as prescribed to avoid unnecessary agony and discomfort as your body regains full strength and functionality.

Possible Future Surgeries

It's always possible that you won't be happy with the final results of your gynecomastia surgery. In this case, your surgeon can recommend a revision to improve contours and correct aesthetic issues, like asymmetry.

If you have a good experience with gynecomastia surgery, you may be tempted to consider other cosmetic procedures. Speak to your surgeon to determine whether additional surgeries are advisable or not.

A Word From Verywell

Gynecomastia surgery is an elective procedure that can improve your quality of life if you choose to have it done. The decision is completely yours to make, as long as your doctor approves.

Explore your treatment options and find a qualified provider to advise and support you through the process. There's no reason to be forced to live with features that make you unhappy when options are available to make a change.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Shah M. What men need to know before having gynecomastia surgery. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Updated July 9, 2019.

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