Gynecomastia Recovery: Looking Worse Before You Look Better?
If there’s one thing we’ve learned in thirty years of performing gynecomastia surgery in New York, it’s that no two patients are the same. That notion holds especially true when it comes to the recovery period—every guy’s journey is different.
We’ve noted that many guys, like our young patient John, can tell their results will be great very shortly after surgery. On the other hand, there are men who experience a variety of changes in their chest following male breast reduction that make healing seem anything but steady, linear improvement. Some of these patients look worse before they look better—or at least they think they do.
If gynecomastia surgery is in your future, here are some things to know that may help you avoid that “uh-oh” feeling when you look in the mirror:
Swelling is inevitable and unpredictable. Swelling is one consequence of surgery that is almost guaranteed not to be linear. The first thing you need to keep in mind is that swelling usually peaks a few days after surgery, not right away. In many cases swelling is asymmetrical, and it can subside and return (especially if you are over active before you should be). Swollen areas can feel hard or soft and squishy.
Subcutaneous scars also change during the healing process. Scar tissue under the skin takes several days to a few weeks to start forming, then it builds over a period of a few months. Many patients will experience scar softening in time.
Scars on the skin’s surface take time to fade. If you’ve had a mild to moderate case of gynecomastia, you’ve probably had liposuction through small nicks in your skin. Those scars should fade to look like tiny blemishes with time. Incisions at the edge of the areola can look a bit raw for a few weeks, but will eventually heal and be nearly invisible.
There are a few more variables too. You probably expect bruising after surgery—understand that the amount can be moderate or extensive. Other factors that can affect your appearance during initial healing include pockets of blood (hematoma) or fluid (seroma) collecting under the skin. These don’t happen often, and they either resolve themselves or can be treated in an office visit. Infection is another possibility, but it’s also quite rare and treatable.
If you should be one of those guys who end up worrying that you’ll look worse after man boob surgery than before, here’s our best advice:
Make sure you’re following your plastic surgeon’s instructions to the letter. If you ignore your doctor’s input about wearing the post-surgical compression garment, for instance, you’ll be hindering your body’s ability to heal quickly and with the best results. You can control many factors involved in your recovery—rest, nutrition, medication and more—don’t discount their importance.
Consider your state of mind before surgery. If you tended to obsess about your man boobs, looking in the mirror several times a day, you may continue this tendency after surgery. Trust us, this is not a good tactic! Considering the many changes your body will undergo as it heals, there may be times you will wonder about what you’re seeing. It’s much better to refrain from too much scrutiny and let your system do its work. (Of course if you notice something alarming, you should contact your plastic surgeon’s office right away.)
Relax and let the healing process unfold. No doubt you have heard that initial healing takes several weeks, and that it can take between six months and a year for your results to be final. During that period, your chest will go through a variety of stages. If you’re following your doctor’s orders and being as objective as you can, the next best thing you can do is be patient and get on with your life.
Your plastic surgeon will schedule follow up appointments to monitor you through the natural healing process. Be sure to keep those appointments and talk with your doctor about any concerns you have—and contact the practice in between as needed.
One last thought: with man boob surgery, results aren’t optimal every time. Occasionally surgeons and patients make mistakes, and sometimes the body’s healing mechanisms go a little bit awry. The good news is that in most cases surgical outcomes can be improved. We perform gynecomastia revision surgery in New York quite often when patients don’t want to give their initial surgeon another try. We are also happy to give guys our expert assessment of their results and our thoughts about a do-over. Please contact us if we can help you in any way.