close up of a doctor  putting a white bandage wrap on a woman's chest

While often grouped into the category of cosmetic surgery, breast reduction surgery is most commonly done to reduce pain.

Patients with large breasts often experience back, neck, and shoulder pain. Plus, moisture between skin folds can cause skin conditions and rashes. Breast reduction can resolve many of these issues and is usually performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon.

If you’re considering breast reduction surgery, this guide should answer any questions you have about the procedure.

Who Gets Breast Reduction Surgery?

The majority of women who seek breast reduction surgery do so to alleviate the physical and emotional toll of heavier breasts. Breast reduction surgery can have an extremely positive impact on a patient’s quality of life, self-esteem, and overall happiness.

However, not everyone can receive breast reduction surgery. Except in rare occasions, breast reduction surgery should only be performed on fully developed breasts. Second, you must undergo a medical evaluation prior to surgery to ensure you’re in good enough health to undergo surgery. Certain underlying conditions may mean breast reduction surgery is not right for you.

How Much Does It Cost?

Breast reduction surgery can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000.

However, your health insurance may cover breast reduction surgery, especially if you’re undergoing the surgery due to physical issues caused by your breast size. Reach out to your provider and ask a representative whether coverage is possible. 

How is Breast Reduction Surgery Performed?

In most cases, a surgeon removes excess fat, breast tissue, and skin through an incision before reshaping the breast. Not only does this reduce the size of the breast, it can even have aesthetic benefits. Many patients are pleased to find, after their recovery, they have a more proportional silhouette.

However, some patients may prefer a less invasive procedure. You can opt to only remove fatty tissue via liposuction. While this procedure reduces the size of your breasts, the final results are less dramatic.

The right type of breast reduction surgery for you depends on your desired outcome, which you can discuss with your surgeon.

Preparing for Surgery

Prior to your operation, you will have several appointments with your surgeon and general practitioner.

Your surgeon will ask you about your desired outcome and may take pictures of your breasts. Your doctor will go over your personal health history. You may be asked to undergo routine lab work and breast imaging.

Leading up to the operation, your surgeon will also go over the procedure with you in detail. You’ll discuss the operation itself, the recovery period, and the long-term risks and benefits. If you have any questions, make sure to ask them during these appointments.

Pre-op preparation varies from patient to patient, so make sure you follow your surgeon’s specific instructions carefully. For example, if you smoke your surgeon may ask you to stop smoking for a certain period of time before the operation.

In preparation for the day of the surgery, specific rules about what you can eat or drink may apply. Most patients cannot eat six hours prior to anesthesia and cannot drink two hours prior to anesthesia. Generally, you will need to abstain from eating or drinking after midnight prior to the day of the procedure.

During The Procedure

Breast reduction surgery is performed under general anesthesia and takes anywhere from two to three hours.

Usually, your surgeon makes an incision around the areola and removes tissue, fat, and skin to reduce breast size. Once this is done, the surgeon lifts the breasts, repositions the nipple and areola, and applies sutures to close the incision.

However, if you’re opting for liposuction, the surgeon will remove fat via two smaller incisions without reshaping the breasts.

In most cases, breast reduction surgery is an outpatient procedure, although you will need someone to take you home afterward. You may opt to stay at an aftercare facility for a night or two of your choosing.

What Is Recovery Like?

Immediately after surgery, you’ll be fitted with a surgical bra to take some weight off of the breasts. You’ll also have some dressings around the breasts. Your surgeon will talk to you about when these dressings can be removed and what medications you’ll need to take to reduce the risk of infection.

Most patients can resume regular physical activity within six weeks. During the first two weeks of recovery, avoid any strenuous physical activity that raises your heart rate. Do not engage in any upper body workouts for six weeks.

Will I Have Scars?

Unfortunately, breast reduction surgery always results in scars. It’s unavoidable. However, these scars tend to be very faint and fade with time. Within a year, in fact, most scars fade considerably.

If your scars bother you, you can speak to the surgeon about ways to help reduce their appearance.

What Are The Potential Complications?

What are the most common complications?

Any surgery comes with complications, but you can mitigate your risk by carefully following your doctor’s instructions. The most common complications include:

  • Blood clots
  • Hematoma (a collection of blood underneath the skin)
  • Infection
  • Wounds
  • Damage to fat cells in the breasts

The best way to reduce the risk of complications is to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully for post-surgical care. If you notice any unusual symptoms or pain, contact your surgeon immediately.

Breast reduction surgery is usually complication free and most issues can be treated.

Can I still breastfeed?

About half of those who undergo breast reduction struggle to breastfeed afterwards. However, that is the same ratio of women who struggle to breast feed who never had surgery.

Will I lose sensation?

While it depends on the type of surgery and how your body reacts, most women do not lose nipple sensation after breast reduction surgery. Your nipples may feel numb in the direct aftermath of surgery, but sensation will slowly return over a month or two.

However, in rare cases people experience permanent loss or reduction of sensation. This is especially likely if you’ve had a procedure in which your nipples and areolas were removed and regrafted.

If you’re concerned about loss of sensation, talk it over with your surgeon prior to the operation. You can opt for surgical techniques that will reduce the likelihood of sensation loss, as well as any lifestyle changes you can make prior to your operation. Smoking, for example, may increase your risk of sensation loss.

What Are The Long Term Results?

Most people make a full recovery a few months after surgery. Swelling will go down, pain will pass, sensation should return, and you can resume your normal life.

Sometimes, you may notice complications like asymmetrical breasts or excess breast tissue. While harmless, this may adversely affect your self-esteem. If you want to improve the appearance of your breasts, talk to your surgeon about followup surgery.

However, the vast majority of those who undergo breast reduction surgery are pleased with the final result. In fact, one study showed up to 95% of patients came out of surgery satisfied. Breast reduction surgery usually results in a vast improvement to quality of life. It reduces back and shoulder pain, helps prevent rashes and shoulder grooves, and can even improve self-esteem.

Ready to get started? Leif Rogers is an Ivy League-educated, board certified plastic surgeon and a standing member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. If you’re interested in breast reduction surgery, get in touch with his team to schedule a consultation.

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