Overly large breasts can be a burden in many ways. Heavy breasts can make physical activity difficult or impossible, and they can lead to back, shoulder and neck problems.
Breasts that are too large can cause skin irritation beneath the crease and cause your bra straps to pull and cut into your skin. Breasts that are pendulous and out of proportion with your body can also be a mental burden. Fortunately, a breast reduction can resolve many of these issues and help you live a more active life.
In a breast reduction, excess fat, tissue and skin are removed to create breasts that are in proportion to your body, with a youthful shape and lift. Most women who undergo a breast reduction enjoy increased activity, less back pain, the ability to wear a broader range of clothes, and improved self esteem.
It Begins with a Consultation
If you’re considering a breast reduction, the first step is a consultation with Dr. Lee. He will take the time to get to know you and why you are seeking a breast reduction. Dr. Lee will ask you about your goals for your breast reduction procedure. He will take measurements of your breasts and photos for your records.
Dr. Lee will take your medical history. Be prepared to talk about any medical conditions, previous surgeries, current medications and allergies, and whether you’ve had any breast biopsies.
A breast reduction may affect your ability to breastfeed, and pregnancy and breastfeeding can affect the results of your breast lift. Tell Dr. Lee if you are planning to become pregnant after your procedure.
You should also tell Dr. Lee if you plan to lose a signification amount of weight. Weight loss can affect the size and shape of your breasts. You may need to achieve your goal weight before undergoing surgery.
Your insurance may cover your breast reduction, depending on your medical history and the amount of breast tissue to be removed. Dr. Lee’s team will help you determine whether this option is available to you.
Before Your Breast Reduction
Knowing what to do and what to expect before your surgery will make for the best possible outcome.
Before your breast reduction procedure, you may be asked to undergo lab tests or a medical evaluation. Dr. Lee may ask you to get a baseline mammogram and another after surgery to help identify any future changes in your breast tissue. You will need to avoid aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs, which can increase bleeding. If you smoke, you will need to stop well in advance of your surgery.
Your surgery will be performed at the fully accredited Southwest Surgical Suites. Be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery and to stay with you at least the first night following surgery.
You will likely receive general anesthesia—Dr. Lee will recommend the best choice for your procedure. You will need to arrange for someone to drive you home after your surgery and spend the first night with you.
Your Breast Reduction Procedure
There are several techniques for breast reductions. Dr. Lee will choose the one best for you based on your breast size and shape, the size and position of your areolas, and your skin quality and elasticity.
Your incision might be made around the areola; around the areola and down to the crease of your breast; or around the areola, down to the breast crease and horizontally along the crease. As much as possible, incisions are hidden in the folds of your breast, but some permanent incision lines may remain. They will fade significantly with time.
In a breast reduction, the excess breast tissue, fat and skin are removed, and the nipples and areolas are repositioned. If your areolas have stretched, they will be reduced, and excess skin may be removed. In most cases, the nipple and areola remain attached to the tissue underneath, preserving sensation and the ability to breastfeed. If your breasts are exceptionally large, however, the nipple and areola may need to be detached and moved, and you will need to consider sacrificing sensation and the ability to breastfeed.
Liposuction may be used in conjunction with or in place of tissue excision, depending on the composition of your breasts.
Sutures are made in layers to first support the deep breast tissue and then to close the surface incisions. Tubes may be inserted to help drain fluids as these layers heal.
After Your Breast Reduction
When your breast lift is complete, you’ll be taken to recovery, where you will be carefully monitored. Your breasts will be bandaged, and you will need to continue wearing an elastic bandage or support bra to minimize swelling. You should be able to go home within a few hours.
You will be encouraged to get up and about for short periods the day after surgery. You may need to sleep on your back for the first few weeks to avoid pressure on your breasts. You will need to protect your breasts from excessive motion and abrasion while your incisions heal to avoid scarring. You’ll also need to avoid straining, bending and lifting to prevent bleeding or increased swelling.
If you have drains, they will be removed within a few days after surgery. Your stitches will be removed in stages at follow-up visits over the course of the next three weeks.
You may experience diminished sensation in your nipples and areolas. This is typically temporary, but it may take up to a year before full sensation returns. Your incisions may be red or pink for several months after your breast reduction as well.
Depending on your job, you likely will be able to return to work after a few weeks. You will be able to resume most other activities, including mild exercise, within several weeks after surgery.
You’ll be required to avoid sexual activity for at least two weeks; for the following four weeks, you’ll need to be gentle with your breasts.
If you experience shortness of breath, chest pains or an unusual heart rhythm after you return home, seek immediate medical attention.
Understanding the Risks
Breast reduction procedures are relatively free of complications, and Dr. Lee is a board-certified plastic surgeon with decades of experience. Every plastic surgery, however, has risks. The potential risks of a breast reduction include:
- Unattractive scarring
- Changes in nipple or breast sensation, which may be permanent
- Anesthesia risks
- Blood clots
- Poor wound healing
- Breast contour and shape irregularities
- Skin discoloration, permanent pigmentation changes, swelling and bruising
- Damage to deeper structures, such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and lungs
- Breast asymmetry
- Fluid accumulation
- Excessive firmness of the breast
- Potential inability to breastfeed
- Potential loss of skin/tissue of breast where incisions meet
- Potential, partial or total loss of nipple and areola
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Pain, which may persist
- Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, blood products, topical preparations or injectable agents
- Fatty tissue deep in the skin could die (fat necrosis)
- Possibility of revisional surgery
A breast reduction can interfere with certain diagnostic procedures such as mammography.
Dr. Lee will discuss these risks with you during your consultation. Please be sure to ask him about any questions or concerns that you might have.
The Results of Your Breast Reduction
Breast reduction surgery will make an immediate and significant difference in your appearance. Your breasts will be smaller and firmer and continue to improve as the swelling decreases. Unless your weight changes significantly or you become pregnant, the results should be long-lasting.
Patient satisfaction with breast reduction surgery is among the highest of all plastic surgeries. You’ll be better able to engage in physical activity, and you’ll enjoy the greater self-esteem and confidence that come with a more youthful, proportionate appearance.
The key to a truly successful breast reduction is maintaining an open line of communication with Dr. Lee. He and his team are eager to respond to your questions and can help provide skin care to maintain and enhance your results—they are your partners in achieving the results that you seek.
Sources: The American Society of Plastic Surgeons; The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
See examples of breast reductions in our photo galleries.