HSE's €207k bill for 'man boob' reduction operations on 46 men
The HSE has spent an estimated €207,000 on man boob reduction operations over the past four years.
Figures provided by the HSE in response to a written Dail question by Fianna Fail TD Robert Troy show that between 2014 and the end of last August the HSE carried out 46 such reductions.
Man boobs, or gynaecomastia, result from a swelling of the breast tissue in men or boys caused by an imbalance between oestrogen and testosterone.
The figures provided by the HSE show that between January and August last year it performed nine elective procedures.
Twelve elective and one emergency procedure were performed in 2016; 10 elective procedures in 2015; and 14 elective procedures in 2014.
In its written reply to Mr Troy, the HSE stated that those who undergo surgery are usually treated by a general breast surgeon or plastic surgeon.
Dr Peter Prendergast, medical director at the privately-owned Venus Medical in Dublin, said he performs "20 to 30 cases of male breast reduction annually, but the number is indeed growing".
"I meet several men every week who are extremely concerned about the appearance of their breasts," he added.
"They wear loose, baggy clothes to conceal the contour of their chest. They avoid beaches.
"They are embarrassed when they are with their partners or even children, who often, innocently, pass remarks. Surgery on these patients, whether excisional surgery or liposuction, is often indicated and can be life-changing for them."
Dr Prendergast said men continue to be "extremely" embarrassed by their gynaecomastia.
He said "man boobs" or "moobs" were unhelpful terms that do little to help those who suffer psychologically from gynaecomastia or enlarged male breasts.
"Most people are unaware of how this condition impacts the mental state of men," said Dr Prendergast.
"In my experience, men suffer in silence, often for many years, before taking the step to have intervention that reduces male breasts."
Dr Prendergast, who has been carrying out gynaecomastia reduction for the past 10 years, said the cost of each procedure is around €4,500.
"My preferred choice for treating gynaecomastia and enlarged male breasts is to use a sophisticated form of liposuction," he said.
"The procedure takes just one hour, and the patient can go home straight away afterwards since no general anaesthetic is required. Apart from wearing a special compression garment and taking mild pain relief, the recovery is quick and most men return to work within two or three days."
The HSE said: "Persistent male gynaecomastia is a rare indication for surgery in Ireland, with 10 to 15 operations per year."