Breast Reduction

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Breast reduction surgery is sought by women who want to relieve the physical restrictions and painful strain on the neck, shoulders, and back caused by excessively heavy breasts -- a strain that can be so severe that it leads to chronic headaches, back and neck deformities, shoulder indentations, breathing problems, skin irritation, and a variety of other medical problems.

Breast reduction surgery, technically called reduction mammaplasty, is usually performed for physical relief rather than for cosmetic reasons. This procedure involves removal of excess breast tissue to reshape and lift the breasts. The results are smaller, lighter, better-shaped breasts that are in better proportion with the rest of the body.

Because of the functional problems associated with extremely large breasts, insurance will often cover the cost of breast reduction surgery. If you're considering breast reduction, the following information will provide you with a good introduction to the procedure. For more detailed information about how this procedure may help you, we recommend that you consult a plastic surgeon who is board certified or has completed a residency program that includes instruction in this procedure.


*The 2010 national average cost of Breast Reduction procedure was $5,384.

*Breast Reduction is one of the top five Cosmetic Surgery procedure of 2010.

Reduction Mammaplasty is the medical term used to describe Breast Reduction. It is a procedure with permanent results.









  1. What are some of the most common benefits of breast reducti
  2. How is breast reduction done?
  3. How long does breast reduction surgery take?
  4. Do I have to stay in the hospital?
  5. How much pain is there?
  6. What can I expect after breast reduction?
  7. What is the recovery period like?
  8. What is the long-term outcome like for most people?
  9. How long do the results last?
  10. Ideal candidate:
  11. Alternatives:
  12. Risks:


What are some of the most common benefits of breast reduction?

Breast reduction is quite successful at reducing the weight of very heavy breasts, making it easier to enjoy an active lifestyle. Many women find that this surgery relieves chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain. The primary benefit of the operation is functional, but you also get a breast lift, which may enhance your appearance and improve your body image.

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How is breast reduction done?

Most often, the incisions for breast reduction are similar to those used for the "keyhole-anchor" breast lift technique. This procedure involves an anchor-shaped incision that circles the areola, extends downward, and follows the natural curve of the crease beneath the breast. Excess glandular tissue, fat, and skin are removed, and the nipple and areola are moved into their new position. The surgeon then brings the skin from both sides of the breast down and around the areola, shaping the new contour of the breast. In some cases, techniques can be used that eliminate the long vertical part of the scar.

In most cases, the nipples remain attached to their blood vessels and nerves. However, if the breasts are very large or pendulous, the nipples and areolas may have to be completely removed and grafted into a higher position. (This will result in a loss of sensation in the nipple and areolar tissue.)

Liposuction may be also be used in breast reduction. The ultrasound method or liposuction is currently the subject of some controversy due to the possibility of changes in the breast tissue from the ultrasonic waves. The use of standard tumescent liposuction is not quite so problematic. Check with your surgeon at the time of consultation.

The periareolar, or doughnut, breast reduction method may also be effective if there is not a large excess of skin. This method has the advantage of hidden scars; however, it tends to flatten the breast shape a bit. In general, the more skin that is cut, the more it is possible to shape the breast. Therefore, there is a trade-off between the extent of the scars and the extent of the shaping of the breasts. Your doctor will discuss the different methods used for breast reduction and describe the technique that is best for you.

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How long does breast reduction surgery take?

Breast reduction surgery generally takes about one to three hours per breast, depending on extent of the repair and the techniques being used.

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Do I have to stay in the hospital?

It depends on your situation. Most breast reduction surgeries are performed as outpatient procedures, allowing you to go home within hours of the operation. However, if an extremely large amount of breast tissue will be removed, the doctor may want you to stay overnight in the hospital where medical personnel can monitor your initial recovery. Breast reduction is most often performed under general anesthesia. In some cases, you may choose to be sedated instead. (This alternative will make you sleepy and comfortable without being completely asleep). Discuss your preferences and options with your surgeon.

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How much pain is there?

Although the surgical incision for this surgery is quite large, it is placed in areas of the breast that are not too sensitive. In addition, due to the fact that the nerves to the breast skin have been stretched out by the weight of the breasts over a long time, the skin is less sensitive. Thus, the pain after surgery is usually easily managed with oral pain medications. Initially, there is discomfort in walking, getting out of bed, and any activity that causes the breasts to move. You may continue to be sore for the first few days after breast reduction surgery.

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What can I expect after breast reduction?

Your breasts will be wrapped with gauze bandage, plus a tighter bandage for protection and support. You also may have small drainage tubes coming out of the incisions, to help drain some of the excess fluid.

It is important to take the medication prescribed to you by your doctor. Someone will need to drive you home, and you may need assistance at home over the next couple of days.

If your breast skin is very dry following surgery, you can apply a moisturizer, but be sure to keep the suture (stitches) area dry.

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What is the recovery period like?

Your bandages will be removed after a day or two, and you will continue wearing a surgical bra around the clock for several weeks, until the swelling and bruising subside. The stitches will be removed in one to three weeks.

Light activities can be resumed within a few days, although your chest will be sore. You may also be instructed to avoid sex for a week or more, since sexual arousal can cause your incisions to swell. Routine physical activity and exercising (especially lifting, pulling, and pushing motions) should be avoided for at least six weeks. This will help the scars to heal. Your doctor will advise you on the level of physical activity that is appropriate for you.

Some women experience random, shooting pains for a few months, especially around the time of menstruation. Expect some loss of feeling in your nipples and breast skin, caused by swelling. This usually fades over the first few weeks, but occasionally lasts a year or more.

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What is the long-term outcome like for most people?

Of all plastic surgery procedures, breast reduction has the most immediate dramatic results. The chronic physical discomfort is gone, the body is better proportioned, and clothes fit better. Some women find that as much as they have desired these changes, they need time to adjust to their new body image. After this adjustment period, most women are very happy with the results.

Your surgeon will make the incisions as inconspicuous as possible, but the scarring from breast reduction surgery is fairly extensive and permanent. These scars are long, and they remain pink or brown for several years. For some women, the scars become wider; but for others, they fade and become less noticeable. (Poor healing and wider scars are more common in smokers.) Fortunately, the scars are placed in areas that are not seen unless you are topless, and can be hidden by most bathing suits.

Future breast-feeding may not be possible, since the surgery removes many of the milk ducts leading to the nipples.

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How long do the results last?

The breasts will remain smaller longer than they would have been if breast reduction had not been performed. Unfortunately, gravity continues to work, and the breasts will sag again with time. In addition, the remaining breast tissue will continue to respond like any breast tissue: it will get bigger if you gain weight, take hormones, get pregnant, etc.

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Ideal candidate:

In general, the best candidates for breast reduction are women:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • Mature enough to fully understand the procedure
  • Whose activities are limited due to large breasts
  • Experiencing physical discomfort due to large breasts
  • Not currently pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Not intending to breastfeed in the future
  • In good physical and psychological health
  • Wanting to improve their appearance and/or comfort
  • Realistic in their expectations

The above is only a partial list of the criteria that your surgeon will consider in determining whether or not this procedure is appropriate for you. Be sure to ask your surgeon if he/she considers you an ideal candidate for breast reduction surgery.

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Weight loss can often reduce the size of the breasts, and should be tried first, although some women's breasts are excessively large even when they are quite thin. Hormonal manipulation is not currently recommended. Liposuction of the breasts can reduce the size of the breasts without causing significant scarring, but most women do not choose this option because it makes the breasts sag more (since the size of the skin is not reduced).

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All surgery has some potential risks, including the risks of bleeding, reaction to the anesthetic, and infection. With a breast reduction, serious complications are quite rare, but there is often significant blood loss due to the magnitude of the surgery. In addition, small areas of infection or delayed healing in the incisions are not uncommon. There is also a possibility of developing small sores around the nipples, which can be treated with antibiotic creams. If you carefully follow all your surgeon's instructions both before and after the surgery, you can minimize the risks.

Some patients may experience a permanent loss of feeling in their nipples or breasts. Rarely, the nipple and areola may lose their blood supply and the tissue will die.

Cigarette smoking decreases blood flow to the skin and subcutaneous tissues (just under the skin) that carry blood flow and leads to an increased risk of the skin scabbing, and can lead to permanent scarring as well.

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The information on this web site is only intended as an introduction to this procedure and should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor as a guarantee of the result. The best method of determining your options is to consult qualified surgeons who are able to answer specific questions related to your situation.

*Disclaimer: Source: According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), nationally in 2010. Most surgeons offer convenient payments plans for this procedure.Cost does not include anesthesia, operating room facility, hospital stay, and other related expenses. Costs may vary depending the extensiveness of the procedure, location, and other factors. Costs are provided solely for research purposes. For specific estimates, please contact a qualified plastic surgeon. 

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