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Breast Reduction Surgery Guide

Written by: Dr Kristie McNealy

Breast reduction surgery, also known as reduction mammaplasty, is designed for women with large, pendulous breasts which may cause medical or psychological problems.

Very large breasts can lead to a variety of medical problems such as neck, shoulder and back pain. In severe cases they may cause postural and breathing difficulties. Oversized breasts can also lead to psychological, emotional and self-image problems. For these women breast reduction surgery is considered a practical health solution.

Many women seeking breast reduction surgery have suffered discomfort and embarrassment for many years, usually from puberty. Common feedback following surgery is that their only regret is that they hadn’t done it sooner.

Essentially breast reduction surgery involves reducing the size of and reshaping the breasts. The surgery is performed under general anaesthetic and usually lasts three to four hours. Most women will need to spend one or two days in hospital following surgery.

How Is Breast Reduction Surgery Done?

Breast reduction or reduction mammoplasty (from the Greek words meaning ‘shaping the breasts’) makes breasts smaller by removing excess breast tissue, fat and skin.

There are a number of different techniques and your surgeon will discuss the best options with you. Surgery involves removing excess tissue and reshaping existing tissue to create your new breasts. Your surgeon may also reposition the nipples since the weight of very large breasts can cause the nipples to sink to a low position. Very occasionally, if the breasts are very big and the nipples very low, the nipples may need to be removed and reapplied to the reconstructed breast as a nipple graft. Usually the nipple is ‘lifted’ still attached to enough breast tissue to simply reposition.

Brest Reduction Surgery Is Best Suited To

Women who are looking for physical relief from the pain and discomfort of large, sagging breasts rather than simply as a cosmetic improvement.

Women whose breasts have reached full development. However the procedure can be done before full physical maturity is reached if the breasts are so large that they cause serious physical discomfort and psychological issues. Many women who have a reduction are in their late teens or early twenties and have had large breasts since puberty.

Breast Reduction is an equally useful procedure in older women, many of whom suffer an increase in breast size after menopause.

A Breast Reduction Will

Still potentially allow you to breastfeed. For women who do want to breastfeed post-surgery the breast reduction operation most frequently performed will preserve both nipple function and some of the duct system. Some supplementation with feeding may be needed until the milk supply is well established. However in cases where a nipple graft is required as part of the surgery, breast feeding will not be possible.

Temporarily reduce nipple sensation. There may be reduced nipple sensation for a few weeks or months. This varies with the type of techniques used and will often correct itself. Some women experience a temporary increase in nipple sensitivity.

A Breast Reduction Will Not

Increase your risk of breast cancer. In fact, having less breast tissue means less risk. It is still possible to have a mammogram to check for breast cancer after a breast reduction and the interpretation of the results should not be a problem.

Be scar free. It is important to realize that it is not possible to reduce or reshape the breast without producing scars – around the nipple, vertically form the nipple to the breast crease and often horizontally under the breast crease itself. By using a careful surgical technique and taking care of the wounds following surgery, scarring can be minimised.

How Long Does To Take To Recover From Breast Reduction?

Expect to spend one or two days in hospital followed by two weeks convalescing at home. You should be able to return to work after about a fortnight. Strenuous activities, such as aerobics, lifting weights and running should be avoided for at least six weeks. While superficial healing of wounds and bruises should occur well within the first six weeks it may take as long as six months before your breasts completely settle into their new shape.

Breast Reduction – Your Initial Consultation

Your surgeon will ask general questions about your state of health and routine tests will be done to exclude issues such as anaemia and bleeding disorders.

Before your surgeon begins a physical assessment they will discuss your expectations in terms of changes to breast size and position. Your surgeon will then measure your body to show to show you where the nipple and breasts will be repositioned in proportion to your build. This will also give you some idea of what cup size you will be after the operation as it is largely dependent on the breadth of the base of the breast and your chest circumference. For this reason it may not be possible to reduce breast volume as much as you would like, without making your breasts appear unacceptably flat.

Determining the correct position of the nipple is one of the most essential components of planning the breast reduction operation. The nipples are positioned on, or just above, the level of the breast fold.

Photos may be taken at this stage for your records as well as to help with planning the surgery.

Ask your surgeon about insurance cover. Some health insurance policies provide a grant towards the cost of breast reduction surgery. This reimbursement may vary from one third to the full amount of your total costs. Your surgeon can provide a support letter on your behalf.

Next: Before Reduction Surgery

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