A breast lift, known as mastopexy, raises and firms the breasts by removing excess skin and tightening the surrounding tissue to reshape and support the new breast contour. It can also help in cases where the areola becomes enlarged over time or where a patient may have lost a significant amount of breast volume. In such cases, breast implants in conjunction with a breast lift can achieve breast enlargement at the same time as the shape and position of the breasts are enhanced. Intended results include:
- Higher breasts (lifted)
- Tighter breast envelope (increased skin tightness)
- Improved breast symmetry
- More pleasing breast shape
- More youthful appearance
Reasons for procedure
A woman’s breasts often change over time, losing their youthful shape and firmness. These changes and loss of skin elasticity can result from:
- Weight fluctuations
What to expect
Prior to scheduling a breast lift surgery, you will meet with your cosmetic surgeon for a consultation visit. Be prepared to discuss:
- Why you want the surgery, your expectations and desired outcome
- Medical conditions, drug allergies and medical treatments
- Use of current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drugs
- Previous surgeries
- Family history of breast cancer and results of any mammograms or previous biopsies
Your breast lift surgeon may also:
- Examine your breasts and take detailed measurements of their size and shape, skin quality, placement of your nipples and areolas
- Take photographs for your medical record
- Discuss the use of anesthesia during your breast lift
Prior to surgery, you may be asked to:
- Get lab testing or medical evaluation
- Take certain medications or adjust current medications
- Get a baseline mammogram before surgery and another one after surgery to help detect any future changes in your breast tissue
- Stop smoking well in advance of plastic surgery
- Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding
Anesthesia. Although local anesthesia may be used, general anesthesia is generally administered. With general anesthesia, you will be asleep. With local anesthesia, the selected area will be numbed.
Description of the procedure. A common method of lifting the breasts involves three incisions. One incision is made around the areola. Another runs vertically from the bottom edge of the areola to the crease underneath the breast. The third incision is horizontal beneath the breast and follows the natural curve of the breast crease.
After your plastic surgeon has removed excess breast skin, the nipple and areola are shifted to a higher position. The areola, which in a sagging breast may have been stretched, can be reduced in size. Skin that was formerly located above the areola is brought down and together beneath it to reshape the breast.
The nipples and areolas remain attached to underlying tissue, which usually preserves sensation and the ability to breastfeed.
Variations to breast-lifting techniques. There are many variations to the design of the incisions for breast lift surgery. The size and shape of your breasts, size of your areolas and the extent of sagging are factors that will help your cosmetic surgeon determine the best technique for you.
In some instances, it may be possible to avoid the horizontal incision beneath the breast. Sometimes a technique may be used that avoids this horizontal incision, as well as the vertical incision that runs from the bottom edge of the areola to the breast crease. If you are a good candidate for a modified technique, your doctor will discuss this with you.
If you and your breast enhancement surgeon have decided that it is desirable to have a breast enlargement at the same time, this will require breast implants. He/she will review the necessary information with you and may provide you with a brochure on breast augmentation.
Closing the incisions. After your breasts are reshaped and excess skin is removed, the remaining skin is tightened as the incisions are closed.
Some incision lines resulting from breast lift are concealed in the natural breast contours; however, others are visible on the breast surface. Incision lines are permanent, but in most cases will fade significantly over time.
Sutures are layered deep within the breast tissue to create and support the newly shaped breasts. Sutures, skin adhesives and/or surgical tape may be used to close the skin.
How long will it take? About one to three hours.
How much will it hurt? Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. You may have some bruising and tenderness of the breasts for several weeks after your cosmetic surgery. Talk to your plastic surgeon about medicine to help manage the pain.
Average hospital stay. It may be possible to leave the hospital on the same day of the procedure, or you may be asked to stay overnight in the hospital. Speak to your doctor about your options.
Postprocedure care. After your breast lift procedure is completed, dressings or bandages will be applied to the incisions. You’ll need to wear an elastic bandage or support bra to minimize swelling and support your breasts as they heal.
A small, thin tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect. In addition:
- You may wish to apply ice packs to your breasts to decrease swelling and pain. Wrap ice in a towel; do not apply ice directly to your skin.
- You may be given a prescription for pain medicine or advised to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Your doctor will advise you regarding return to exercise.
- Be sure to follow your cosmetic surgeon’s instructions.
Possible complications. Complications are rare, but no plastic surgery procedure is completely risk free. If you are planning to have a breast lift, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Bleeding, infection and reactions to anesthesia
- Skin discoloration, permanent pigmentation changes, swelling and bruising
- Damage to deeper structures — such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles and lungs — can occur and may be temporary or permanent
- Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, blood products, topical preparations or injected agents
- Fatty tissue deep in the skin could die (fat necrosis)
- Fluid accumulation
- Excessive firmness of the breast
- Potential partial or total loss of nipple and areola
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Blood clots
- Interference with diagnostic procedures
Call your doctor
After you leave the hospital, contact your breast lift doctor if any of the following occur:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Persistent elevated temperature
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding or discharge at the incision site
- Fluid or blood collecting in either breast
- Nausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medicines you were given after surgery, or that persist for more than two days after discharge from the hospital
- Pain that you cannot control with medication
In case of an emergency, call 911.
American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
American Board of Plastic Surgery
American Society of Plastic Surgeons