- Solid silicone and silicone gel implants are the most common types of calf implants
- Almost everyone returns to their full normal activities within four to six weeks of their operation
- The average cost for calf implant surgery in the United States falls between $4,500 and $6,500
Augmenting one’s calves typically calls for implants to be inserted, and while most patients requesting the procedure do so for aesthetic reasons, implants are also frequently required to correct issues with the lower legs resulting from birth defects, disease, or injury.
Different types of calf implants
While nowhere near as varied as breast implants, calf implants do come in different types and sizes, each with their arguable advantages and disadvantages. Of these, solid silicone and silicone gel implants are far and away the most common.
However, while still preferred by some surgeons, one big problem with the silicone gel calf implants is that they carry the risk of capsular contracture, albeit this is far more common with breast implants than calf implants. Regardless, it remains a consideration.
On the other hand, solid silicone implants sometimes leave an edge you can actually even feel if they’ve been placed too close to the surface. Which is one more reason why, when solid silicone implants are used, submuscular placement is recommended.
Dr. Marc DuPéré, a board-certified plastic surgeon Toronto, Ontario, mentions how in Canada silicone-gel implants have not been approved for use by the federal government (Health Canada to be a little more precise, Canada’s equivalent to the FDA), but that it makes no difference to him anyway. He says that ever since he first started performing these surgeries some 15 years ago, he’s been perfectly content using the solid calf implants.
“The newer [solid] implants are in fact very soft and pliable and do a fine job of mimicking a toned, athletic muscle – which is what most patients aspire to,” explains DuPéré. “These soft but solid implants are also more resistant to forces [pressure] created by strenuous lower body activities. Even better though, is that they can’t rupture. Plus, solid silicone implants come in a greater variety of styles and may be carved into custom shapes before surgery to accommodate asymmetrical muscles.”
Calf augmentation is performed under general anesthesia or a local anesthetic with IV sedation and takes approximately two-and-a-half hours to complete.
Over the course of your initial consultation with a qualified plastic surgeon, your legs will be measured to determine the appropriate size of your implants.
As for the procedure itself, once you’ve been anesthetized and are good and sedated, an incision is first made behind the knee, a location typically chosen because it’s difficult to detect scars there afterward.
A pocket is then created between the muscle and fascia before the implants are studiously placed within the muscle of the calves. Interestingly, while women typically only want the inner – or medial – calf filled out, men are more likely to request larger augmentation of the medial and lateral (outer) calves.
For the first few days following surgery your lower legs will likely be swollen and slightly bruised. Your doctor will prescribe the appropriate medications to minimize discomfort over this period. It’s important to try and keep your legs elevated for the first two days post-op to alleviate the swelling, but depending on a variety of factors, your doctor might also encourage you to try walking again on the second day. Much will depend on your individual circumstances.
Most people walk stiffly for the first couple of weeks following calf augmentation surgery, but a normal gait usually returns to them by the beginning of week three, if not sooner.
Recovering patients need to avoid any particularly strenuous exercise, like weight training and/or running, for up to two months afterward.
And finally, don’t let yourself get too discouraged after a few weeks of possibly feeling compromised from all this relative inactivity. Remember, almost everyone returns to their full normal activities within four to six weeks of their operation.
Dr DuPéré points out how “any body implant involving muscles will demand recovery time, especially when linked to ambulation, as is the case with hip, calf and buttock implants. And because they’re required for walking, running and standing,” notes DuPéré, “calf augmentation is no exception. Most of my patients with one implant per leg can return to doing desk work within 2 weeks, while the vast majority have returned to normal ambulation after 2-4 weeks.”
Recovery from calf enlargement also sometimes depends on the actual placement of the implants. Placement just beneath the fascia is preferred in many cases because it’s less invasive and offers a faster and easier recovery than implants placed within the muscle.
On the downside, however, this placement can create difficulties because, should the implant rotate, it will result in a calf defined by an implant, not muscle, which clearly isn’t the idea. So while submuscular placement demands a few more days of recovery time, the implants are more secure and the results more natural.
As with any surgery, there are risks associated with calf implant surgery. Among these are rare surgical complications like nerve or vascular damage, adverse reaction to anesthesia, hematoma, infection, changes in sensation, and scarring. Other risks associated with calf implants include slippage and asymmetry.
Most if not all of these risks can be minimized by simply following the instructions your surgeon provides you. It’s also wise to try and locate a plastic surgeon near you who already has extensive experience performing implant procedures, calf implants in particular.
Further, because it impedes healing and vastly increases the risk of developing complications, you’ll need to quit smoking at least two weeks prior to surgery and refrain from consuming tobacco straight through to the final days of your recovery.
Some medications and supplements increase your risk of bleeding during surgery, so be sure to provide your surgeon with a thorough list of all the medications you take, including over-the-counter medications and natural supplements. Your doctor will also provide you with a full list of medications you’ll need to discontinue prior to surgery.
The cost of calf implant surgery depends on several factors, among them being your location, the level of experience and reputation of your plastic surgeon, the size and type of implant chosen, the cost of the anesthesia along with any surgical facility fees. As a ballpark figure, the average cost for calf implant surgery in the United States falls between $4,500 and $6,500.
Dr DuPéré says that in Canada it’s important to remember that the cost of a calf augmentation is all-inclusive, that there are no extra fees for things like anesthesia. “[In Canada] the cost for one implant per leg is $8,100 and $11,800 for 2 implants per leg.”
Calf augmentation is not covered by insurance when performed for cosmetic reasons, although it may be included in some plans should it be required to fix a deformity or birth defect.