Breast reduction surgery (reduction mammaplasty) is a plastic surgery procedure that decreases the size of the breast by removing unwanted fat, glandular tissue and skin. Women with very large breasts are most likely to request this procedure. However, a less extensive version of breast reduction called “gynecomastia surgery” is becoming increasingly popular among men who have excess breast tissue.
If you’re a woman with breasts that are disproportionately large or asymmetrical, you may be a candidate for this surgery. Ideally, you should be in good overall health and have realistic expectations about the benefits and risks associated with cosmetic surgery. If you’re not at or near your ideal weight, your surgeon may recommend a weight loss program prior to this operation to minimize the amount of fatty tissue that must be surgically removed. Patients who smoke or have a health condition that could increase the risk of surgical side effects may not be the best candidates for this procedure.
Patient Consultation Overview
Your plastic surgeon will need to know your treatment goals. For example, you might be seeking this procedure to relieve one or more of the following symptoms:
- Back, neck and shoulder pain caused by the weight of your breasts
- Difficulty maintaining correct posture due to being “front heavy”
- Chronic yeast infections or other rashes under your breasts
- Breasts that are not the same cup size
- Drooping caused by age or as a result of pregnancy/breastfeeding
- Persistent irritation or grooves caused by bra straps
Your cosmetic surgeon will review your entire medical history and walk you through the potential risks and side effects of the operation. In some cases, reduction mammaplasty is considered medically necessary rather than cosmetic. You’ll need to discuss your case with your surgeon and your insurance provider to find out whether any of your breast reduction costs may be covered by insurance. Breast reduction prices can vary depending on the extent of the surgery, whether both breasts will be reduced, and whether additional procedure such as a breast lift will be done at the same time.
This procedure may be done under either general or local anesthesia depending on the surgeon’s assessment of the nature of the operation and your specific medical profile. This procedure may take 2 to 4 hours. The surgeon typically makes an incision around the areola, down to where the breast meets the rib cage, and along the breast crease. This is where your breast reduction scars will be.
The surgeon will remove skin, fat, and breast tissue as needed to reduce and reshape the breast. Liposuction may be used for fat removal. The nipple and areola may need to be repositioned to provide a normal appearance. The incisions are sutured closed and small tubes may be placed temporarily to drain excess fluid. You may be fitted with a special surgical bra or compression bandages to aid healing.
Some patients go home the same day while others must remain in the hospital for several days. Drains are removed after about three days and sutures are removed after 7 to 10 days. Tenderness, swelling, and bruising are normal side effects that should resolve over time. Your surgeon will let you know when you can resume regular activities. If your breast reduction recovery goes well, this may be just a few weeks.
This operation carries many of the same complication risks as other types of plastic surgery. Potential complications that are unique to breast reduction include:
- Asymmetrical or unsatisfactory results requiring revision
- Changes in breast and nipple sensation (which may be permanent)
- Tissue death of any portion of the breast due to insufficient blood supply
- Fluid- or blood-filled cysts (hard lumps) that develop during the healing process
- Possible inability to breastfeed
- Limited arm and/or shoulder movement after surgery
Many patients who have breast reduction surgery experience significant, ongoing relief from backache and posture problems. Many patients report that they feel more comfortable engaging in physical activity and sports. They also feel less self conscious about their appearance and have an easier time finding well-fitting clothing.