What Is Breast Reduction Surgery?
Women with large breasts who are unhappy with their appearance and/or want to treat symptoms such as back pain, breathing problems and poor posture may benefit from breast reduction surgery. Breast reduction, also known as reduction mammoplasty, removes fat and glandular tissue from the breast while tightening skin to produce smaller breasts that are more comfortable and in a healthier proportion to the rest of the body.
In addition to physical pain and other symptoms, large breasts may also draw unwanted attention that can affect a woman’s self-esteem and make her uncomfortable with her appearance. Breast reduction can help patients regain confidence and enjoy a renewed self-image by creating a body contour they are proud of.
Prior to your reduction mammoplasty, one of our experienced doctors will meet with you to discuss your goals and expectations for surgery, as well as to inform you of the details of your chosen mammoplasty. This discussion is important in helping patients achieve the precise results they desire. Each mammoplasty is fully customized for each individual patient.
Candidates for a Breast Reduction
Ideal candidates for breast reduction surgery are women with oversized breasts that cause medical problems, low self-esteem, physical or social discomfort or frustrations with the size of their breasts. Women must not be pregnant or breastfeeding while undergoing this reduction mammoplasty.
It is important for patients to understand the details and risks associated with a mammoplasty, and to have realistic expectations in order to be satisfied with the results of their surgery.
Breast Reduction Procedure
Breast reduction surgery is performed under general anesthesia and takes about two to four hours, depending on the techniques used and each patient’s individual case. There are several different types of incisions that may be used for this procedure. Your doctor will determine the best type for you after evaluating your breasts.
Breast Reduction Techniques
Traditional Breast Reduction Surgery
This technique involves an anchor-shaped incision and is ideal for women with extremely large breasts, although scarring is usually more apparent. Skin, fat and tissue can be removed from the lower breast and the nipples and areolas may be repositioned as well.
Vertical Incision Breast Reduction
Also known as short-scar, this technique involves incisions that extend around the areola and down to the breast crease for a lollipop shape. Vertical incision is ideal for women with moderately large breasts and creates shapelier results with less scarring for women who do not require extensive tissue removal.
Scarless Breast Reduction
Scarless breast reduction uses liposuction techniques to reduce the size of the breast with little to no scarring. Since liposuction only removes fatty tissue in the breast, patients should have more fatty tissue than glandular tissue. This technique is commonly used on men with enlarged breasts.
Recovery From Breast Reduction Surgery
After breast reduction surgery, patients will likely experience soreness, swelling and bruising for several days. Bandages will be removed after two days and replaced with a surgical bra. Physical activity should be limited for one to two weeks, while exercise and other strenuous activity should be avoided for at least four weeks.
Patients will return to the doctor to have stitches removed after approximately two to three weeks, at which point most will be able to return to work and other regular activities. It is important to see your doctor for regular follow-up visits to ensure that your breasts are healing properly.
The results of breast reduction surgery are noticeable immediately after surgery and will continue to improve as swelling and bruising subside. Scars will continue to fade with time and can usually be concealed by a bra, bathing suit or low-cut top.
Breast Reduction Potential Risks
Although breast reduction is considered safe for most patients, there are certain risks associated with any reduction mammoplasty. Some of these risks include loss of sensation, scarring, and asymmetry, and well as general surgical risks such as infection, bleeding and reaction to anesthesia. Most patients undergo this procedure with no serious complications.
Your surgeon will discuss these and other risks with you prior to surgery, as well as answer any questions you may have to ensure that your mammoplasty is performed as smoothly as possible.
How small can I go with breast reduction surgery?
Is breast reduction surgery painful?
How much you’d like Dr. Smith to reduce your breasts is completely your decision. There is no right or wrong answer here. Most of our patients from across the Low Country opt to keep their breasts proportional with the rest of their figure. Their focus is to reduce the burden of their overly large natural breasts, without focusing on a specific size decrease. The goal is to make your breasts proportional, alleviating their negative impact on your life.
Some patients coming to Dr. Smith for this procedure are so sick of their oversized breasts they want to dramatically decrease their size. They’ve spent a life dealing with their breasts and want to be done with them. But you also don’t want to regret downsizing your breasts too much at a later date. After all, your body shape will change dramatically with this procedure. It’s a welcome change, but it will be an adjustment.
When you meet with Dr. Smith for your consultation, the two of your will discuss your goals and see how much you’d like to decrease your breasts. Most of our patients opt to reduce their breasts by one to two cup sizes.
This is major surgery, so you’ll need to do the same things you would prior to any surgery: stop taking any anti-inflammatory medications, aspirin, blood thinners, and most supplements for at least one week prior to your surgery. These can cause excessive bleeding and increased subsequent bruising and swelling. If you smoke, you’ll need to stop for at least two weeks prior to and two weeks after your surgery, as smoking constricts the blood vessels, which can impede healing.
If you’re a little overweight, Dr. Smith wants his patients to try and lose the extra weight prior to this surgery. That way, if the patient is at her ideal weight, he’ll be able to remove the appropriate amount of excess skin without worrying about future loose skin after additional weight loss.
You’ll probably need a couple weeks off from work, so make those preparations.
You won’t be able to lift anything more than a gallon of milk for a couple weeks. You also won’t be able to reach upward for that time. So, if you need to lighten amounts that you use and lift regularly do so. Also bring things down from shelves so that you can easily grab them without reaching up.
Prepare your recovery nest. It’s important to really rest after reduction surgery, as Dr. Smith excises a fair amount of tissue and repositions remaining tissue, so there is a good amount of tissue trauma. By laying low, you make it easy for your body to start the healing process. Make your nest ultimately comfortable with lots of pillows and blankets. You’ll need to sleep mostly on your back, so pillows can help you stay in place. Have all the entertainment you can want at your fingertips.
What kinds of preparations should I make before my breast reduction?
There will be some pain during your recovery due to the length of the incisions required, the removal of tissue, and the repositioning of the nipple/areola complex. This is the most prevalent during the first two to three days, and then it begins to resolve quickly. You’ll likely want to take a full week off work, two if you can swing it.
While it’s not directly correlated to your pain, the most important part of recovery is wearing your surgical bra, then your support bra, and then a strong sports bra for 24 hours a day for at least one full month. This can seem tedious, but it’s absolutely necessary to keep from placing any stress on your incisions. Being diligent will help them heal better and become less noticeable more quickly.
How long does it take for my breast tissue to fully settle after this surgery?
Will my nipple lose sensation?
Is breast reduction safe?
Because of the sagging involved with most breast reduction patients, Dr. Smith usually needs to relocate the nipple/areola complex to a higher position on the breast. This can affect the nerves in the nipples, and this can impact sensation. As a board-certified plastic surgeon with over a quarter century of surgical experience, Dr. Smith makes every effort to mitigate this, and most patients regain full sensation as their nerves adjust to the changes.
With breast reduction, Dr. Smith repositions a good deal of breast tissue and removes as much excess, sagging skin as is necessary. Your breast tissue will settle over the weeks following your procedure. There isn’t a set timeframe here, but you can expect it to take up to six months for your breasts to fully settle into their future appearance.
These procedures are very similar to a breast lift. Dr. Smith removes fatty breast tissue to decrease the size of the breasts, rather than simply excising loose, sagging skin. Breast reduction is a common surgical procedure and it doesn’t involve a lot of risk beyond the risks involved with any surgery.
The biggest potential side effect is the loss of nipple sensation and possible loss of the ability to breastfeed. As mentioned above, Dr. Smith does his best to mitigate these possibilities, but with the amount of tissue removal and repositioning some disturbance can occur.
When you consider the health issues caused by overly large breasts — back and neck pain, nerve damage, migraine headaches, and the like — not to mention the psychological toll, the rewards gained with breast reduction far outweigh any minimal risks.
Can you combine a breast reduction with other procedures?
A breast reduction is basically a breast lift with some extra tissue removal. Breast lifts are already combined with tummy tucks and liposuction in what are colloquially called “mommy makeovers.” So, you could easily combine your breast reduction with some liposuction and/or a tummy tuck. This is something to discuss with Dr. Smith at your consultation.