What are calf implants?

Calf implant surgery (also called calf augmentation) is a surgical procedure that increases the size and shape of the calves. It involves inserting a solid, silicone implant into a pocket that overlies the calf muscle.

Men and women who are unhappy with the shape and size of their calves get calf implant surgery. For men, calf implants create a bulkier, fuller-appearing calf muscle. For women, calf implants create a more contoured, natural-looking leg.

Why do people get calf implants?

Even with the most vigorous, weight bearing exercises, calf muscles can be very hard to develop so they change shape. Calf implants offer an easy, quick solution for people who want a better contoured, more appealing calf shape.

You may be a suitable candidate for calf implants if:

  • Your lower legs lack the muscle contours you desire
  • You are a body builder or athlete who wants to enhance their appearance
  • You are considering liposuction of your thighs or knees and want to improve the appearance of your calves
  • Your calves are asymmetrical and/or unbalanced
  • You have a medical condition or congenital defect that has affected the normal development of the lower leg and calf muscles. These conditions can include spina bifida, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, clubfoot and polio.

The size and type of calf implants you need to consider with calf implant surgery

After you’ve chosen your Cosmetic Surgeon, who is experienced and highly trained in calf implant surgery, you will need to consider the size and type of implants.

While your Cosmetic Surgeon will guide you with these choices, it’s important to think about:

1 Size and shape of calf implants

Calf implant sizes vary in thickness, length, width and contours. It can be helpful to place the implants along your calf to see the potential improvement. While your Cosmetic Surgeon will guide you with the best calf implant to choose, you will need to choose two implants to mimic the calf muscles. A single calf implant will give a fake contour to your leg.

It is important to note that if you choose a calf implant that is too large, you may experience issues with pressure and/or pain. Muscle problems and nerve impingement can also occur.

2 Type of calf implants

While all calf implants are composed from soft, solid silicone, some Cosmetic Surgeons prefer to use contoured silicone that is made from soft-solid silicone elastomer. Your Cosmetic Surgeon can tailor these types of calf implants for your requirements.

How is calf implant surgery performed?

The intention of calf implant surgery is to imitate the volume and shape of the gastrocnemius muscle. This muscle is the most superficial muscle in the back of your calf and the simplest to imitate with calf implants.

After calf implants are in place, you will be able to see improvements from the back, side and front of your legs.

Calf implant surgery is generally performed as an outpatient procedure under a general anaesthetic. Depending on the extent of the procedure, a calf implant can be completed within 1 to 2 hours.

The incision for your calf implants will be placed in the natural skin fold at the back of your knee. This incision typically measures between 5 to 7cm. Calf implants are then inserted into this ‘pocket’. The Cosmetic Surgeon will then close the incision.

Your calf implants can be placed in your leg either deeply within the muscle, or under the fascia. Having calf implants in the fascia (the deep thick tissue layer that binds the muscle to the bones and joints) is the most popular method as it requires less dissection and leads to faster recovery times. It is important to note that having a calf implant in the sub-fascia can lead to movement (a drift or rotation) of the implant.

Are there are risks or complications with calf implant surgery?

Calf implant surgery is a very safe procedure; however as with any surgery where general anaesthesia is used, there are possible risks and complications. To reduce any risk in calf implant surgery, it is very important to use a Cosmetic Surgeon who is highly trained and performed many calf implant procedures.

General complications of every surgery include:

  • Pain. Your healthcare team will give you medication to control the pain. To reduce discomfort and prevent headaches, it’s important that you take the medication.
  • Blood clot in your leg (deep-vein thrombosis – DVT). This can cause pain, swelling or redness in your leg, or the veins near the surface of your leg to appear larger than normal. Your healthcare team will assess your risk. They will encourage you to get out of bed soon after the operation and may give you injections, medication, or special stockings to wear. Let the healthcare team know straightaway if you think you might have a DVT.
  • Blood clot in your lung (pulmonary embolus). If a blood clot moves through your bloodstream to your lungs. If you become short of breath, feel pain in your chest or upper back, or if you cough up blood, let the healthcare team know straightaway. If you are at home, call an ambulance or go immediately to your nearest Emergency department.

Specific risks and complications of calf implant surgery include:

  • Implant displacement. While this is rare, it can occur in the first 10 days after your surgery. It is important to note that this complication can be corrected without having another operation. If you experience a calf displacement after 10 days, you will need to have another surgical procedure.
  • Infection. This can be treated in a number of ways including draining, implant removal, and a course of antibiotics, either alone or in various combinations.
  • Nerve injury. Key nerves in your calf area can be damaged when the pockets are created for the calf implants. Nerves can also suffer damage from the implants pressing on them after insertion. Some patients encounter severe pain that does not subside with time due to nerve injury or excessive pressure.
  • Closed compartment syndrome. This can occur because of excessive pressure on your muscles and nerves. If the calf implant is too big, it will need to be replaced with a smaller one.

Key facts about calf implants

  • Calf implant surgery can give you a more symmetrical, contoured appearance in your calves.
  • Athletic and basic motor abilities can be enhanced as a result of calf implant surgery.
  • The best candidates for calf implants are physically healthy and emotionally stable with realistic expectations about calf implant surgery.

The best way to find the best Australian Cosmetic Surgeon for calf implants

While some Cosmetic Surgeons will say they perform calf implant surgery, it is very important to find someone fully qualified and trained that performs this procedure at least once a month. Calf augmentation surgery is a unique operation that requires good aesthetic skills.

We suggest you have a few consultations with Cosmetic Surgeons on your shortlist. Here are some questions you may like to ask them:

  • How many calf implants did you undertake in the last 3 months, last month and last week?
  • Are you able to look at their recent before and after photos from their calf implant surgery?
  • Have there ever experienced any complications from implant shifting or infection?

Find the best Australian Cosmetic Surgeons for calf implants here.

What is recovery like after having calf implants?

To speed up the healing process after your calf implant surgery, there are several important things you must do. Common post-operative instructions for patients who undergo calf implant surgery include:

  • Regular intake of the prescribed medications.
  • Bed rest with legs elevated for the first 24-48 hours after calf implant surgery to reduce swelling.
  • Taking short walks for routine activities as required.
  • Wearing a specially designed compression support above the knees for 6-8 weeks after surgery.
  • Avoiding strenuous activities including as bicycling, jogging, and leg exercises for at least 8 weeks after calf implant surgery.

It is normal to have swelling and bruising after calf augmentation surgery. In most people this will subside over a 7-14 days. The incision scar will take at least 10 days to heal.

Most patients will need to take 1-2 weeks off work. If you have a physically active job, you will need to take more time off. Your Cosmetic Surgeon will advise you of your optimal recovery time.

Important to know

So you can make an informed decision, your elected Cosmetic Surgeon will discuss the possible risks associated with calf implant surgery. As there are high risks involved, it's important to understand how problems be managed in the event that they occur. Although the majority of patients do not experience these complications, it's important to understand how they can be managed in the event that they occur.

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 Peter Callan

Peter Callan

109 Reviews

Plastic Surgeon
Victoria, Australia

Anonymous July 7th, 2019

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