Breast reduction

Written by Mara Tyler | Published on July 25, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

Overview

Breast reduction surgery—also called reduction mammoplasty—is a procedure that helps to reduce the size of a woman’s breasts. A plastic surgeon will remove extra fat, tissue, and skin through cuts on the undersides of both breasts. Breast reduction is an outpatient procedure with few complications for most women.

Reasons for Breast Reduction

Women with large breasts often have painful physical symptoms due to the strain the weight of their breasts places on the neck, shoulders, and back. Some women even suffer from constant headaches, poor posture, and herniated discs.

Additionally, some large-breasted women feel self-conscious or have a negative body image. Breast reduction surgery can address both the physical and psychological challenges large-breasted women may experience.

Preparation for Breast Reduction

Before a breast reduction procedure, your doctor will perform a routine breast exam to determine if you are a candidate for the surgery. You may also need a mammogram or other lab tests to ensure you are in good health. You and your doctor will need to decide whether or not to use general anesthesia during the surgery, as some patients do fine with local anesthesia.

In the days before the surgery, your doctor will probably advise you to stop taking certain over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Arrange in advance for someone to give you a ride home and take care of you for a few days after surgery. Call in any prescription medications you may need to help manage pain after surgery.

On the day of your surgery, you will probably be advised to avoid food and water in the hours leading up to the procedure.

Breast Reduction Procedure

After administering anesthesia, the doctor will make an incision starting at your areola (the pigmented area around the nipple) and continuing down to the underside of your breast. Fatty tissue and skin will be removed to reduce the size of each breast. The surgeon is often able to leave the nipple in place, however, in some cases, it may need to be repositioned.

After Breast Reduction Surgery

After the surgery, your breasts will be wrapped in gauze-type bandaging. You may also have drainage tubes attached to your breasts to help eliminate excess fluids from the initial swelling after the surgery.

Your doctor will tell you when it is safe to remove the bandages. Typically, it will be up to a week before you are able to wear a bra again. At that point, you will wear a special soft bra for several weeks.

Healing from Breast Reduction

While you may return home from the hospital on the same day, your movement will be limited. You will need plenty of rest and recuperation after the surgery. Be careful not to engage in excessive movement.

Your breasts will be sore and probably painful to the touch. With pain medication, you should be able to manage the healing process better, but you may also have symptoms like numbness, itching, or general fatigue.

Based on how quickly you recover, your doctor should be able to tell you when you can return to normal activities like work, exercise, or driving.

Risks Associated with Breast Reduction

While the risks of a breast reduction surgery tend to be minimal, some women may suffer from:

  • decrease or loss of sensation in the nipples or breasts
  • asymmetrical results (one breast or nipple may appear larger or smaller than the other)
  • scarring
  • problems with breast-feeding
  • allergic reactions to anesthesia, surgical tape, or drugs used during the procedure
  • long recovery time

Outcomes for Breast Reduction Surgery

After surgery, many women have positive results in achieving both the health and cosmetic benefits of smaller breasts. However, you may have to buy new clothes to better fit your body and it might take some time to mentally adjust to your new appearance.

Also, keep in mind that it can take months for the swelling to completely go away. If your breasts don’t immediately look smaller, don’t worry. Check in with your doctor to make sure you’re healing at the right pace.

In some cases, you might need a follow-up surgery to correct any mistakes or enhance the appearance of your breasts.

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