To remove tissue and
skin from the breast, the surgeon first makes one or more cuts in the breast.
After the excess tissue and skin have been removed, the skin is closed with
stitches. Sometimes the nipple and areola have to be removed and repositioned.
Sometimes liposuction is used along with surgery. If most of the breast is fatty tissue and if excess skin isn't a problem, liposuction alone may be enough for breast reduction.
Breast reduction surgery is done in a hospital or
surgical center, typically with
general anesthesia. The surgery usually takes 3 to 5
hours. An overnight stay is not usually required. For smaller reductions, the surgery may be done with local anesthesia.
Breast lift (mastopexy) is similar to a breast reduction,
except that in some cases only skin is removed. A breast lift
can raise sagging or drooping breasts, which is a common problem with large,
heavy breasts, and can elevate the nipple and areola.
What To Expect After Surgery
Immediately after surgery, gauze is
placed over the incisions, and the breasts are wrapped in an elastic bandage or
supported with a special surgical bra. In some cases, there may be a small tube
in each breast to help drain blood and fluid for the first couple of days.
Stitches may be removed in 1 to 2 weeks.
Most women have some
breast pain for the first few days after surgery and then milder discomfort for
a week or longer. Medicine can help relieve the pain. Swelling and bruising may
last for several weeks. Wearing a surgical bra 24 hours a day can help reduce
swelling and support the breasts while they heal.
You will likely
resume your normal work and social activities within a couple of weeks, unless
those activities involve heavy lifting or strenuous exercise. You may need to
avoid more vigorous exercise and activities for 3 to 4 weeks or more. It's
important to wear a bra that supports the breasts well, such as a sports or
You will have visible scars on your breasts after
breast reduction surgery. These are almost always in areas that can be covered
by a bra or swimsuit. Scars may fade over time, but they will not
Why It Is Done
Breast reduction surgery is done to
change the size, weight, firmness, and shape of the breasts. You may decide to
have breast reduction surgery to:
Feel more comfortable. Large, heavy breasts can
cause back and neck pain, skin irritation, and posture problems. The constant
pull of heavy breasts may make bra straps leave painful indentations in a
woman's shoulders. Breast reduction surgery can eliminate these problems in
Reduce the limitations that large, heavy breasts place
on participation in sports or other activities. Some physical activities may be
painful or awkward for women who have large breasts.
appearance. Large breasts, especially when they are out of proportion to your
height and weight, can be embarrassing. Teenagers and young women with large
breasts may especially feel self-conscious wearing swimsuits and other types of
clothing due to unwelcome attention to large breasts. It also may be hard
to find clothes that fit well.
How Well It Works
Women who have breast reduction
surgery are often extremely satisfied. It can make the breasts smaller, firmer,
lighter, and more evenly proportioned. It usually relieves the physical
discomfort and pain caused by large breasts.
The results of breast
reduction surgery are considered permanent. But the breasts may become larger
or their shape may change as a result of pregnancy, weight gain, or weight
The most common risks of breast reduction surgery
Scars. Breast reduction surgery always leaves
visible scars on the breasts. But how bad the scars are varies from person to
person and by the type of incision. Although red and swollen at first, scars
typically fade over time. But scars may remain very noticeable in some women
long after surgery. Fortunately, the incisions usually can be limited to areas
of the breast that can be covered by a bra.
nipples, or breasts that are not the same size or shape.
feeling in the nipples or breasts. This is often temporary, lasting a few
months. But in some women it lasts much longer or becomes permanent. Because
some women with large breasts do not have a lot of feeling in their breasts
before surgery, this may not be a concern.
Inability to breast-feed after surgery. Some women may still be
able to breast-feed, depending on what type of reduction was done.
Less commonly, damage to the breast's blood supply may
occur during surgery. This may delay the skin's healing process. Loss of part
or all of the nipple and areola can also occur, but this is not common.
Other risks of surgery include:
Excessive bleeding during
Reaction to the
Blood clots in large veins traveling up to the heart
and lungs (pulmonary embolism). This is not common.
These risks can be serious or even life-threatening, but
they rarely occur.
What To Think About
Keep in mind that breast reduction
may make breast-feeding difficult or impossible in the future. Some
women may still be able to breast-feed after having reduction surgery.
If you are thinking about having a breast reduction, contact your
insurance company. Some insurance companies cover some or all of the costs of
breast reduction surgery if surgery is being done to relieve back pain, skin
problems, or other medical problems caused by large or heavy breasts. They
typically will not cover breast reduction surgery being done solely to change
the appearance of the breasts, because it is not considered a medically
necessary procedure when done for this reason.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.