Getting female-to-male (FTM) top surgery done is a milestone procedure for many transmen. It gets them one step closer to being comfortable in the skin they’re in and gives them the opportunity to live their life in the body they truly feel like they were meant to be in.
But like any surgical procedure, there are many questions and concerns surrounding it — one of the main ones being pain. Is it a painful procedure? Is recovery uncomfortable? What can be done to manage that? These are common questions patients ask when they visit the McLean Clinic and something we’re always happy to shed some light on.
We understand that top surgery is both an exciting and emotional experience for many reasons, which is why we always try to ensure that the entire process is as comfortable as possible. Before we answer some of these burning questions, let’s begin by talking about what FTM top surgery is first.
In simple terms, FTM top surgery is the surgical removal of breast tissue and restructuring of the breast area to achieve a firm, masculine-looking chest. Now there are two types of top surgeries, which include:
Double Incision Mastectomy - this procedure is performed on patients who have medium to large-sized breasts. Two horizontal incisions are made along the chest at the top and bottom of the pectoral muscle, where the breast tissue and nipple are both removed. Once the surgeon has taken out all the necessary tissue, the nipple is resized and repositioned back on the chest to ensure the final result looks masculine.
Keyhole or Periareolar Mastectomy – unlike the double incision mastectomy, the nipples are never removed during this top surgery. Instead, the breast tissue is removed through a small incision that’s made around the bottom of the areola. This surgery is performed on patients who have smaller breasts and tighter skin around the chest, so no excess skin removal is needed. For optimal results, drains are inserted under each arm to collect any excess fluid that may accumulate under the empty skin. This technique helps to ensure that the skin heals firmly against the chest.
Once the procedure is over, patients are sent home for recovery. During this time, patients are given a compression binder or surgical bra to help support the chest and keep everything in place during the healing period.
About one-week post-operation, patients will have a follow-up appointment with their surgeon to assess their progress and ensure everything is healing properly. During this appointment, bandages will also be removed and the patient will then start applying nipple dressings daily until their next appointment.
Now for the million dollar question — is recovery for top surgery painful?
Not as much as you might think. In fact, if patients follow recovery instructions and manage any pain or discomfort with medication recommended by their surgeon, recovery is pretty smooth. It’s encouraged that pain medication is used when needed, but patients typically find that pain during recovery is very minimal and subsides after a couple of days. Apart from some pain, patients will experience slight discomfort from the swelling and bruising of the chest, but this can be managed with ice packs.
If patients start experiencing unbearable pain or extreme swelling, this may be the symptoms of a bigger problem like an infection. Patients are advised to contact their surgeon immediately to see what the best course of action is. Luckily, while complications like this are possible, they’re unlikely to occur, especially under the supervision of an experienced surgeon.
Overall, full recovery can take up to a few weeks, but patients are free to start going about their regular routine after two, with the exception of minor restrictions. After that, regular or strenuous exercise can resume after the six-week mark or when your surgeon gives you the go-ahead.
Remember, everyone’s recovery journey is different. When healing from FTM top surgery, it’s important not to rush recovery and allow your body to heal as best as possible. For the best results, be sure to follow your surgeon’s recovery guide and get as much rest as you can.
If you’re thinking about doing FTM top surgery, let the McLean Clinic team be part of your journey! It’s not easy deciding which surgeon to go with, but Dr. McLean’s experience and expertise in the field is unparalleled. Dr. McLean and his team understand better than anyone that this procedure is more than something purely aesthetic. They’ve witnessed it firsthand and seen just how life-altering this procedure can be in helping transmen take ownership of their body and getting it to align with how you feel about themselves on the inside. If you want the McLean Clinic to be on your team, feel free to book a free consultation with us today.