Is a breast reduction for me?
If you are considering a breast reduction, you’ve probably thought about it for a long time. Typically, your breasts began developing early in puberty… and didn’t stop. While it seemed like the rest of the world celebrated large breasts, you felt like you always suffered with yours. The upper back, neck and shoulder pain. The sweating underneath the breasts. Difficulty fitting into tops and bathing suits.
Breast reduction surgery makes the breasts smaller and gives the breasts a more uplifted shape. After suffering with their enlarged breast size for so long, many women wish they had done the surgery years ago.
What is a Breast Reduction?
Breast reduction, technically called reduction mammaplasty, is surgery to removes fat, glandular tissue, and skin from the breasts, making them smaller, lighter, and firmer. It can also reduce the size of the areola, the darker skin surrounding the nipple. The goal is to give the woman smaller, better-shaped breasts in proportion with the rest of her body.
Breast reduction is usually performed for physical relief rather than simply cosmetic improvement. Most women who have the surgery are troubled by very large, sagging breasts that restrict their activities and cause them physical discomfort.
Women with breasts that are sagging but are not overly large can have their breast lifted without reduction. This is called a breast lift (mastopexy).
Benefits of Breast Reduction Surgery
The benefits of breast reduction surgery are to:
- Remove excess breast fat, tissue and skin to achieve a breast size in proportion with the body
- Alleviate back, neck and shoulder pain and indentation associated with overly large breasts
- Improve or eliminate skin irritation beneath the breast crease
- Reduce the enlarged areola (the pigmented skin surrounding the nipple) caused by stretched skin
Breast Reduction Cost
Breast reduction surgery costs are sometimes paid for through medical health insurance. Other times, it is considered cosmetic and is paid for out of pocket. When you call our office, we will be able to give you more details about the procedure.
Medical health insurance companies often have guidelines on what situations they will cover and how much tissue needs to be removed from the breast in order to qualify. For these reasons, it is best to come in for a consultation with our surgeons to talk about these issues.
If the breast reduction is considered a cosmetic procedure, many financing options are available to help you.
Breast Reduction Procedure
While one of the main reasons for breast reduction is to improve symptoms associated with overly large breasts, it is important for you to discuss with our surgeons what your goals are. At the Advanced Institute for Plastic Surgery, we take the time to carefully plan and customize the surgery with you. We take into consideration your current breast size and shape, size and position of the areola, the degree of breast sagging, skin quality, and, of course, your goals and desired final size.
A breast reduction usually takes between 2 to 4 hours depending on the technique performed.
Short Scar Technique
When a minimal to moderate breast reduction is needed, the reduction can be performed using a “short scar” technique. The “short scar” technique involves an incision around the areola and extends vertically downward. The final result is often called a “lollipop” scar.
Anchor Incision Technique
For larger breast reductions, a horizontal incision is added to form an “anchor” incision. After the incisions are made, the excess glandular tissue, fat, and skin are removed. The nipple and areola are lifted into their new position. The skin from both sides of the breast are then brought together to reshape the new contour of the breast.
In both techniques, the nipples remain attached to their blood vessels and nerves. However, if the breasts are very large or pendulous, the nipples and areolae may have to be completely removed and grafted into a higher position. (This will result in a loss of sensation in the nipple and areolar tissue.)
Breast Reduction Recovery
After surgery, you will wear an elastic bandage over gauze dressings. Your breasts will be bruised, swollen, and uncomfortable for a day or two, but the pain shouldn’t be severe. Any discomfort you do feel can be relieved with medications. For a few days after surgery, keeping the head elevated will help keep the swelling down. Some numbness of the skin is normal; it will disappear in a few weeks or months.
Within a few days, the bandages will be replaced by a soft sports bra. You will need to wear this bra all the time for three to four weeks, over a layer of gauze.
Most patients are back to work or school in 7 to 14 days depending on the extent of the surgery. Avoid strenuous activity, including heavy lifting, pushing, jogging, bending, housework, sex, or any activity that may put excessive pressure on your breasts. Avoid anything but gentle contact with your breasts for about six weeks.
Although much of the swelling and bruising will disappear in the first few weeks, it may be six months to a year before your breasts settle into their new shape. Even then, their shape may fluctuate in response to your hormonal shifts, weight changes, and pregnancy.
Breast Reduction Risks and Complications
Most women after breast reduction are extremely happy with significant alleviation of back, neck, and shoulder pain. However, all surgeries come with associated risks and we want you to know about them.
There will be incisions along your breasts and your surgeon will be able to tell you exactly what to expect. How the scar heals, however, depends on your genetic characteristics. Some people’s scars are very faint while other people’s scars may be more prominent.
Numbness of the Nipple
During the course of the surgery, microscopic nerves that supply sensation to the nipple may be disrupted. After surgery, it is the job of those nerves to find their way back to the nipple. Sometimes these nerves get “lost”. Numbness of the nipple is often temporary, but in some individuals, it may be permanent.
In order to decrease the risk of bleeding after surgery, you should avoid lifting, pushing or pulling anything. Do not bend over at the waist or allow the breasts to dangle. Avoid coughing, throwing up or retching. Anything that raises your blood pressure will increase your chance of bleeding. If you carefully follow our postoperative instructions, most bleeding will be avoided.
Dissatisfaction with Final Size
Before the surgery, our surgeons take a great deal of time and care in talking to you about your desired size. We do our best to try to achieve your wishes. Even so, however, women may occasionally feel that they are too large or too small after the surgery. With proper education and communication before the surgery, in most cases, patients are happy with their results.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How much time is required for a breast reduction?
A: The surgery requires approximately 2-4 hours depending on the surgical technique. As with all surgeries, the amount of time needed varies from patient to patient.
Q: Is a breast reduction an inpatient or outpatient procedure?
Q: What are some common side effects?
A: Side effects of a breast reduction include temporary swelling, bruising, and discomfort. Changes in nipple or breast sensation are usually temporary. Scars along the incision sites are permanent.
Q: What is the recovery time?
A: Most patients are able to return to work or school in 7 to 14 days.
Q: How long do the results last?
A: The results from a breast reduction can be permanent. However, pregnancy and weight fluctuations will change the size of your breasts. The effects of gravity and aging may eventually cause the breast to sag, creating the need for a future breast lift.