Breast Reduction General Information

What is a Breast Reduction, how is it performed, and what's recovery like?

Breast reduction procedures typically involve a reduction in the volume of breast tissue and excess skin while elevating the nipple/areolar complex.  The purpose of breast reduction is to acquire a more comfortable breast size so that patients have greater freedom and less discomfort due to excess breast weight.

Mastopexy or breast reduction procedures are generally performed on an outpatient basis, or with an overnight stay to ensure the well being of the patient. In most cases, a general anesthetic is employed to ensure comfort and safety.

The amount of tissue to be removed or the distance the areolus is to be uplifted will determine the extent of surgical scars. Traditionally, in addition to an incision around the areolus, a vertical incision extends from the areolus to the fold beneath the breast and another scar runs along the length of the fold. Today, many breast reductions can be performed with newer techniques necessitating just the incision around the areolus.  Each patient has specific needs and goals that must be considered so no breast reduction surgery is alike.  Discussing specific goals and the procedure from start to finish is important to fully understand what is involved.

Following the procedure a brassiere-like dressing is worn and patients are able to recover in the clinic until ready for discharge.  Recovery is similar to other breast alteration procedures, yet there are specific recovery guidelines and risks that breast reduction patients must be aware of.  A thorough discussion with a cosmetic surgeon regarding recovery care and risks is important to fully understand the procedure. 

What are the risks with Breast Reduction and what preparation may be necessary?

There are multiple risks associated with breast reduction.  It is critical to understand these risks and to have realistic expectations regarding surgery outcome.  Only through an in-depth discussion with a surgeon will the risks, benefits, and expected outcomes become clear.

Ceasing the ingestion of any and all over the counter, herbal, and prescription medications and vitamins that affect bleeding to decrease your risk of hematoma formation is vital to prepare the body for surgery.  Patients should cease smoking for at least two weeks prior to surgery (even longer ideally), and smokers can face unique or elevated risks which should be thoroughly understood.  Due to this, discussing lifestyle and any forms of consumption which can affect the body's ability to heal should be thoroughly discussed with the cosmetic surgeon.

Infection is always a risk of surgery.  Antibiotics may be taken post-surgery to minimize risk of infection.  It is not uncommon for incisions to pull apart along the folds beneath the breasts or around the areolae; should this occur, the area will be treated with a moist dressing and usually heals without the necessity for revision. Such a wound separation, however, will significantly prolong the healing process.

Nipple necrosis leading to loss of the areola and/or nipple is a rare but serious side effect when incisions are made near the areola.  Nipple necrosis is caused by impaired blood flow to the nipple and areola after surgery.  The risk of this complication is higher in smokers. 

Inability to breast feed post-surgery can occur but many of the procedures used today usually do not affect breast feeding.  The risk varies with the type of surgery.  While reducing a breast, incisions will naturally course across breast ducts, but the ducts immediately beneath the nipple are left intact and usually patients are able to breast feed in the future. Although not all women are able to breast feed even before a breast operation, breast alteration procedures by themselves should not rule out the ability to breast feed at a later date.

Breast reduction can lead to changes in skin sensitivity because removal of the skin involves cutting through nerves that influence sensation. Loss of sensation is usually minimal and returns over the course of a few months.

Scarring occurs with any surgery and final scar appearance cannot be predicted.  Scars can vary from a nearly invisible line to a large, raised, discolored scar depending on the body's reaction to healing.  Unwanted scars can be treated through medical or surgical intervention.

Asymmetry of the size and shape of the breast is a common complication.  It is impossible to create perfect symmetry and small differences should be expected.  Dramatic differences can be minimized by choosing to have the procedure performed by an experienced specialist.

There is no evidence that breast reduction surgery alters the possibility of developing breast cancer. It will still be necessary for you to examine yourself monthly for breast lumps and to undergo mammography as suggested by your personal physician. It is suggested that all patients 35 years of age or older obtain a mammogram prior to elective breast surgery.

This list is not exhaustive and the risks and potential side effects associated with breast reduction ought to be treated seriously and in-depth discussion with a professional cosmetic surgeon is necessary to fully understand what to expect.

How much do Breast Reductions cost?

Breast reduction costs vary based on location, the cosmetic surgeon, demand, the time and effort required during the procedure, as well as what's required during the procedure from start to finish (lab fees, anesthesiologist, hospital stay fee, pathologist, etc.). 

Generally, spending anywhere from $5,000-$10,000 may be expected.  The exact cost of your procedure is of course highly variable and based on your specific situation.  To consult with a cosmetic surgeon and discuss breast augmentation and the overall cost, find a surgeon in your area that is right for you.

Disclaimer:This information is intended only as an introduction to this procedure. This information should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor does it guarantee results of your elective surgery. Further details regarding surgical standards and procedures should be discussed with your physician.

By OnlineSurgery Staff
Updated: November 13, 2008

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