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Breast reduction

Contents of this page:

Alternative Names   

Reduction mammoplasty

Definition    Return to top

Breast reduction is surgery to reduce the size of the breasts.

Description    Return to top

Breast reduction surgery is usually done under general anesthesia. You will be asleep and pain-free. Or, you may have local anesthesia. You will be awake and will receive medicine to numb your breast area to block pain. If you have local anesthesia, you will also receive medicine to relax you.

For a breast reduction, the surgeon removes some of the breast tissue and skin. Your nipples may be moved higher to center them, for cosmetic reasons.

In the most common procedure,

The operation can last 2 - 5 hours.

Why the Procedure is Performed    Return to top

Breast reduction may be recommended for you if you have very large breasts (macromastia) and:

Some women may benefit from non-surgical treatments, such as losing excess weight, exercising to strengthen their back and shoulder muscles, and supportive bras.

Risks    Return to top

Breast reduction is generally safe. Ask your doctor about these complications.

Risks for any surgery are:

Risks for any anesthesia are:

Risks for this procedure are:

Before the Procedure    Return to top

If you smoke, you must stop. Women who smoke after breast surgery have a greater chance of slow wound (incision) healing, infection, and scarring. You must even avoid breathing in secondhand smoke.

Always tell your doctor or nurse:

During the days before surgery:

On the day of your surgery:

After the Procedure    Return to top

You may have to stay overnight in the hospital.

After surgery, a bulky gauze dressing (bandage) will be wrapped around your breasts and chest, and drainage tubes may be attached to your breasts. These tubes will be removed within 3 to 5 days. You will remove the ace wrap, bra, or dressings after surgery, as your doctor has told you.

Within the first week, you will replace your dressing with a soft bra. You must wear this bra for several weeks.

Your pain should decrease in a few days. Take pain medicine to control it. Be sure to take the medicine with food and plenty of water. Do not apply ice or heat to your breasts unless your doctor has told you that is okay.

Within a few days, the swelling and bruising around your incisions should disappear. You may have a temporary loss of sensation in your breast skin and nipples after surgery. Sensation will return over time. Your stitches will be removed within 2 weeks after surgery.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

You are likely to have a very good outcome from breast reduction surgery. You may feel better about your appearance and be more comfortable with various activities. Pain or skin symptoms, such as striation, will disappear. You may need to wear a special supporting bra for a few months to reshape your breasts.

Scars are permanent. While they will be more visible for the first year they will then fade. The doctor will make every effort to place the incisions so that scars are hidden. Most of the time, the scars should not be noticeable, even in low-cut clothing (incisions are usually made on the underside of the breast).

References    Return to top

Burns JL, Blackwell SJ. Plastic surgery. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 73.

Brown JR, Holton LH 3rd, Chung TL, Slezak S. Breast-feeding, self-exam, and exercise practices before and after reduction mammoplasty. Ann Plast Surg. 2008 Oct;61(4):375-9.

Handschin AE, Bietry D, Hüsler R, Banic A, Constantinescu M. Surgical management of gynecomastia--a 10-year analysis. World J Surg. 2008 Jan;32(1):38-44.

Update Date: 3/2/2009

Updated by: David A. Lickstein, MD, FACS, specializing in cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery, Palm Beach Gardnes, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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