Buttock implants

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Chapter 40 Buttock implants

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A Gluteal Implant Augmentation


The esthetic standards of beauty for the gluteal region have changed over the past few decades. The “Rubenesque” curves of the Renaissance are no longer considered attractive; today, women seek an athletic look with well-defined curves for the breast and buttock area. Standards of beauty include a well-projected gluteal area and a uniform line that on the frontal view makes a natural curve from the waist to the knee. Our current ideal of the female buttocks implies a small waist so the gluteal area has appealing posterior projection but without disproportionate width in the side-to-side dimension.

In response to this esthetic norm, which favors more athletic, defined buttocks, the demand for gluteal augmentation has been growing since the 1960s. At that time no surgical technique had been described for gluteal augmentation, and silicone implants were designed only for breast augmentation. This demand launched a new search for a surgical solution and was the impetus for the development of a new procedure that includes regional shaping by liposculpture with placement of special implants designed for gluteal augmentation.

The authors have been focused on developing a natural and esthetic gluteal augmentation technique over the past 19 years. During these years they have progressively improved the surgical technique and developed an anatomic system for gluteal augmentation that includes the ideal implant design. The goal has been to identify the best technique: one that is safe, effective, and reproducible by all plastic surgeons, with excellent, natural results.

FIG 40.140.10 Appears imageONLINE ONLY

Evolution of Technique

Gluteal augmentation as a surgical procedure was introduced to clinical practice in 1969 by Bartels and colleagues; using a Cronin-style round mammary implant a unilateral deformity was corrected; the procedure was primarily reconstructive. It was not until 4 years later that the procedure was first performed as a cosmetic operation. Since then, a few reports have appeared in the medical literature describing the technique, reporting long-term follow up, and outlining the possible complications of this procedure.

In 1973, Dr. William Cocke and G. Ricketson described the use of mammary implants for correction of lateral gluteal depressions. The implants used had Dacron patches on the underside for better fixation, although other types of breast implants were also used. This was the first description of the placement of gluteal implants in the subcutaneous plane. However, the use of mammary implants in a subcutaneous plane produced less than optimal esthetic results (Fig. 40.1). The implants are noticeable through the skin and do not give a natural appearance.

González-Ulloa, in Mexico, was one of the first surgeons to reconstruct the gluteal region, either by lifting “sagging” buttocks or placing an implant to augment them. He reported his 10 year experience with gluteal augmentation and lifting in 1991.

Techniques for gluteal augmentation have progressed through four anatomic planes: subcutaneous, submuscular, intramuscular, and subaponeurotic.

Subcutaneous Plane

First attempts at gluteal augmentation placed implants in the subcutaneous space (Fig. 40.2); breast implants were used until the first implant designed by González-Ulloa specifically for gluteal augmentation was released by Dow Corning. However, this subcutaneous space had numerous anatomic restrictions, making it unsuitable for this operation. Results were unnatural, and the visibility of the implant restricts the usefulness of this space for gluteal augmentation (Fig. 40.3A, B, C).

The system that maintains the skin attachment to the gluteal region is composed of aponeurotic expansions running from the gluteal aponeurosis to the dermis; when a gluteal implant pocket is developed in this space, these aponeurotic expansions are divided, skin will be loose, and the implant will not have the correct anatomic position. Thus a very obvious implant will result.

Complications with this subcutaneous approach consisted of extrusion, infection, and inferior displacement of the implants. The second generation of implants included Dacron patches on the back, with the goal of affixing the implant to the pocket; however, these patches were not sufficient to maintain implant position. The next generation design had an area on the implant that could be sutured to the deep tissues. Results with this approach were still unnatural, with implant visibility an ongoing problem.

Correction of these cases implies having to change the dissection plane to either intramuscular or subfascial and closing the subcutaneous space permanently. In Fig. 40.4A, B, and C the correction of the patient shown in Fig. 40.3 has been performed, placing a polyurethane covered gluteal implant in a subfascial plane (photos were taken 6 weeks postoperatively).

Submuscular Plane

In 1984, Dr. Robles from Argentina described a new technique for gluteal augmentation that used a submuscular approach. This approach preserved the aponeurotic system that holds gluteal skin in position; however, it introduced a new anatomic problem with the potential risk of injury to the sciatic nerve. This nerve emerges from the submuscular space, at the level of the proximal lower third of the gluteal region and at the inferior border of the piriform muscle. To avoid injury to this nerve, an implant could not be placed below this level (Fig. 40.5). Furthermore, implants had to be small in diameter and could not be placed close to the infragluteal fold.

This technique was used for many years. In patients who had good volume in the lower third of the gluteus, small implants could be placed in a relatively snug pocket. However, in slender patients the esthetic results were not good and patients were often left with a double bubble deformity, similar to the phenomenon sometimes seen when mammary implants are placed below the inframammary fold.

Tailoring the pocket for the gluteal implant through the submuscular approach preserved the aponeurotic expansion system uninjured, but the implant was positioned high in the gluteal region. Therefore projection was higher than normally expected, and the lower third of the gluteal region was empty, with the loose skin hanging over the upper thigh. This space, which was named the “subgluteal cellular space” by Dr. Robles, is developed deep on the depression of the osseous pelvic bones, and projection of the implant is lost. This technique was probably the most well known for gluteal implants, until the subaponeurotic technique was developed.

Intramuscular Plane

Another anatomic space described for gluteal implants was the intramuscular space (Fig. 40.6), which was developed by disrupting the gluteal muscle fibers. The goal was to leave a 3 to 4 mm thickness of gluteus maximus muscle attached to the aponeurosis. Ideally, this could help to minimize risk to the sciatic nerve, but disruption and avulsion of the muscle fibers produced a high incidence of seroma. It was also very difficult to estimate the quantity of muscle on top, and the possibility of injuring the sciatic nerve was not totally eliminated because undermining was done blindly with no anatomic landmarks to guide the surgeon.

Additionally, skin markings for this operation were done with the patient in a sitting position; thus the inferior part of the gluteal region would remain empty. Although the threat of injury to the sciatic nerve was remote, the esthetic result, similar to that of the submuscular approach, was suboptimal. The inferior border of the implant was high, and the lower part of the gluteal region was empty and loose with the appearance of a double contour (Fig. 40.7A, B, C). Furthermore, the operation was painful, with a difficult postoperative period, because the patient had to maintain a vertical position for several days.

Subfascial (Subaponeurotic) Plane

To solve the problems encountered with the subcutaneous, submuscular, and intramuscular anatomic dissections, a new anatomic plane was sought that could hold a gluteal implant. Extensive anatomic dissections were performed in which we studied the gluteal aponeurosis. Our technique is based on these anatomic studies.

The gluteal aponeurosis is very strong at its origin and insertion. This fascia covers the gluteus maximus muscle (Fig. 40.8A, B), the larger and more superficial regional muscle responsible for projection of the gluteal area, and the anterior two thirds of the gluteus medius muscle, which shows on the upper third of the gluteal region. The gluteal aponeurosis insertions are on the posterior iliac bone, the sacral bone, and the coccyx bone, and on the lateral limit inserts on the greater trochanter and extends to the iliotibial line.

This large aponeurosis covers the entire gluteal region and at the same time molds the gluteal augmentation; it is stronger at the insertion sites and softer in the middle, helping to achieve a natural result (Fig. 40.9A, B).

The aponeurosis expansions are distributed in a transverse direction, along the axis of the muscle fibers throughout the gluteal region. Because they originate on the deep part of the gluteal aponeurosis, the attaching fibers convert the superficial surface of the gluteus maximus into a uniform space shaped like the muscle. The aponeurotic expansions to the skin are preserved, and the subaponeurotic space allows proper positioning of an implant without risking injury to the deep neurovascular structures (Fig. 40.10A, B).


Patient selection is very important for this procedure. The ideal patients for gluteal augmentation with implants placed with a subfascial technique are:

Why Is the Subfascial Plane Recommended?

The subfascial plane is the most superficial anatomical space that can hold an implant capable of molding and shaping the buttocks using the gluteus maximus muscle as a platform for the implant. This space is limited inferiorly by the infragluteal fold where the gluteal aponeurosis attaches to the posterior thigh fascia (Fig. 40.11). In addition, the likelihood of implant displacement is minimal because the subfascial space is closed.

The gluteal aponeurosis sends expansions to the skin, which insert onto the deep portion of the dermis; these expansions work as a system to maintain the skin and subcutaneous tissues adherent to the gluteal region in the same way the skin of the palm of the hand is attached to the deep tissues. These aponeurotic expansions are distributed transversely. They originate on the deep part of the gluteal aponeurosis and cover the superficial part of the gluteus maximus muscle in a muscle group divided by these expansions. To maintain this system intact, subcutaneous undermining should be avoided. We prefer a subaponeurotic space that can be carefully undermined on top of the gluteus maximus muscle. This undermining allows perfect positioning for the implants without possible injuries to the deep neurovascular structures while preserving the aponeurotic expansions to the skin. After the implants are placed, this space is anatomically contoured by the gluteal aponeurosis, and it is limited inferiorly by the infragluteal crease where the gluteal fascia is attached to the posterior thigh fascia (Fig. 40.11B, C).

Preoperative Preparation

Patients are instructed to consume a low-fiber diet 3 days in advance of the procedure and to suspend any aspirin, vitamin E, or other medications that promote bleeding during surgery. Patients are admitted to the hospital the night before the operation and skin markings are performed. Patients are given an enema and started on an antibiotic.

Knowing in advance the exact measurements of the implant pocket, as well as the patient’s expectations for augmentation, it is easy to determine the implant size. In the anatomic system designed for this operation, the implant’s base diameter becomes larger with very little increase in projection and volume, making the decision easier.


With the patient in the upright position, skin markings are made using a custom-designed template. The template must fit perfectly into the gluteal region leaving 2 cm above the infragluteal sulcus and 2 cm lateral to the external rim of the sacral bone (Fig. 40.14). The sacral triangle must be preserved; it is an esthetic landmark of this region. The implant should never be placed on top of the sacral bone.

Laterally the template will extend to the external border of the gluteal region, leaving at least 2 cm from the external line (Fig. 40.16A); this is the line that continues up from the iliotibial line of the thigh. Liposculpture lines are drawn at the same time when indicated (Fig. 40.15B).

Some of the same principles used in breast surgery can be applied to the gluteal region. When evaluating a gluteal augmentation candidate it is important to take into consideration the following aspects:

If redundant skin exists in the lower back and gluteal area due to excess laxity of the skin or important weight loss, introducing a gluteal implant will improve the volume of the buttocks but it will not correct any drooping, sagging, or ptosis of this area. This is the same phenomenon seen with the breast; it will continue to be a ptotic buttock, only bigger in volume.

For the correction of this problem, resection of the excess skin is necessary, reposition of the anatomical structures and the restoration of the volume and projection desired.

Liposculpting and Gluteal Implants

The most frequent procedure done simultaneously with gluteal implants is liposculpture of the gluteal area including the lower back, posterior thighs, and lateral thighs. By combining these procedures, the results of gluteal augmentation are positively enhanced. Ultrasound-assisted liposculpture is preferred because it results in fewer hematomas and less ecchymosis and blood loss than with standard suction-assisted liposuction. During the procedure, care must be taken not to connect the liposuction area with the implant pocket; this will decrease the possibility of drainage from the liposuction space into the implant pocket.

Liposuction of the lower back enhances the gentle curve produced by the implants in the upper part of the buttocks. In very thin patients, another procedure performed simultaneously is insertion of calf implants to improve calf contour and balance the volume gained in the gluteal region with the calf.

Surgical Procedure

The procedure is outlined in Box 40.1.

Surgical Technique

The surgical incision begins at a point 3 cm above the anus corresponding to the level of the coccyx and extends cephalad approximately 6 cm. The incision then proceeds laterally to the presacral fascia on the subcutaneous tissue until the external rim of the sacral bone is reached. At this time an incision is made parallel to the external rim of the sacral bone on the gluteal aponeurosis and reaching the subfascial space (Fig. 40.17A). Care is taken not to cut any of the muscle fibers. Infiltration of Klein’s solution is done under the aponeurosis; this facilitates identification of the avascular plane under the fascia. The multiple septae from the aponeurotic expansions are identified and infiltration is done between this network (Fig. 40.17B). Because these are aponeurotic expansions, they are not easily disrupted so they all need to be cut to ensure hemostasis (Fig. 40.17C). The goal is to raise a fasciocutaneous flap in the gluteal region.

FIG 40.17A Appears imageONLINE ONLY

Sharp dissection continues; lighted retractors and long instruments for retraction, cutting, and coagulation are essential to divide all aponeurotic expansions over the muscle. Bleeding is minimal if undermining proceeds carefully, with simultaneous coagulation with dissection. Perforator vessels from the superior and inferior gluteal arteries are identified and legated (Fig. 40.17C). To facilitate undermining, it is advisable to maintain the dissection from medial to lateral and from cephalic to caudal, maintaining a wide field of exposure extending from the initial subfascial undermining (Fig. 40.18A). It is also important to remember to restrict the undermining to the level of the skin marking, thus preventing it from extending beyond the infragluteal crease.

Once dissection is completed, we use implant sizers to confirm the size of the implants to be used and to determine if any further dissection is needed. These sizers are developed as part of the anatomic system for gluteal augmentation; they are white smooth-surfaced gel-filled implants, each with the corresponding size mark and with the “sizer legend” on top. These are not the definitive implants; however, they are handled with the same no-touch technique used for the final implants. It is advisable to maintain the implant in saline solution with antibiotic until the end of surgery (Fig. 40.18B).

Once the final implants are selected, closed suction drains are inserted to help maintain the adhesion of soft tissues to the implant. The selected implants are placed. These implants have a transverse line on their equator so that they can be seen through the incision and to ensure perfect placement and alignment (Fig. 40.19).

The implant must fit loosely in the pocket, and closure of the aponeurosis must be without tension. Tissues are rearranged to comfortably drape over the implant. It is advisable to dissect both pockets before inserting any implant so that the augmented gluteus does not interfere with the dissection of the contralateral pocket (Fig. 40.20A, B).

Once the implants are placed, closure of the pocket begins by reinserting the aponeurosis under no tension; a watertight repair is done with absorbable sutures. Superficial and deep subcutaneous fascia are closed separately on both sides of the presacral fascia. Finally, the skin is closed and fixed to the presacral fascia to reconstruct the intergluteal crease. Tissue glue can be used to maintain the incision closed and dry. At this point any adjunctive procedures are begun.

Adjunctive Procedures

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