Breast Reduction Surgery

Breast reduction (formally referred to as reduction mammoplasty) is a plastic surgery procedure for women with excessively large, pendulous breasts, a condition known as breast hypertrophy. Overly large breasts can cause both physical and psychological problems, including:

  • Back and neck pain
  • Inflammation beneath the breast folds
  • Soreness from bra straps digging into the skin
  • Limitations on physical activities
  • Increased self-consciousness
  • Emotional discomfort resulting from unwanted attention
  • Decreased self-esteem

By removing excess skin, fat and breast tissue, and repositioning and reshaping the breasts, reduction mammoplasty can relieve the physical and psychological strains of overly large breasts and help women attain a more comfortable, proportionate and visibly appealing bustline.

Breast Reduction Candidacy

The best candidates for the procedure are women in good health at or near their ideal weight. Candidates also must have realistic expectations, be nonsmokers (or at least be willing to quit smoking for a time) and be able to follow pre- and postoperative surgical instruction.

Teenagers who have excessively large breasts also may be candidates for breast reduction. However, surgery can only be performed after the breasts have finished developing.

Your Consultation

If you are considering breast reduction, you should first speak to a board-certified plastic surgeon with experience performing breast surgery. Be sure to choose a surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Surgeons who are certified by ABPS have undergone extensive training and are held in high esteem by their colleagues.

During your initial consultation, your surgeon will examine your breasts and review your medical history. He or she will listen carefully to your concerns and goals for surgery and determine whether you are a good candidate for the procedure. Next, your surgeon will explain how breast reduction surgery works in great detail. Your surgeon will likely show you breast reduction before and after photos to help you visualize possible outcomes of surgery.

The Procedure

Breast reduction procedures are typically performed with the patient under general anesthesia. Three main incision types are available:

  • Around the areolas (the dark-colored skin encircling the nipples) The surgeon makes incisions around the areoles and removes excess skin, fat and tissue before closing the incisions. This option is available only for women whose skin is highly elastic and will shrink to the breasts' new shape.

  • Keyhole incision – The incisions encircle the areolas and extend down to the breast folds in a flared pattern, similar to an old-fashioned keyhole shape. The surgeon removes the extra skin, tissue and fat and sutures the incisions. These incisions will leave vertical scars from the areolas to the breast folds.

  • Anchor incision – As the name suggests, this incision is shaped like an anchor, encircling the areola, extending vertically to the breast fold and then continuing in both directions along the breast fold.

Your surgeon will help you decide which incision is best based on your unique considerations and goals.

Regardless of incision type, the nipple is typically moved to a higher location on the breast, although it usually remains connected to the underlying blood vessels and nerves. In some cases, the nipples may need to be removed and grafted to their new position.

Recovery

Following breast reduction surgery, your incisions will be covered with dressings or bandages. Drainage tubes may be inserted into your incisions to help prevent the accumulation of fluids. You may be asked to wear a support bra or elastic bandage to help support the breasts as they heal.

Your surgeon will give you detailed instructions about wound care and the resumption of physical activities. Be sure to follow all your surgeon's instructions to ensure your breast reduction recovery goes smoothly. This will help you avoid side effects and ensure that your scars are as inconspicuous as possible.

Risks

Breast reduction surgery is not without risks. Your surgeon will discuss all the possible breast reduction side effects with you prior to surgery, including:

  • Anesthesia complications
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Dissatisfaction with the cosmetic results
  • Asymmetric breasts
  • Loss of nipple or breast sensation (temporary or permanent)
  • Blood clots
  • Death of fatty tissue in the skin (fat necrosis)
  • Poor wound healing
  • Inability to breastfeed

The best way to minimize these and other risks is to follow all of your surgeon's pre- and postsurgical directions carefully — especially the need to quit smoking (if you are a smoker). Smoking severely impacts your body's ability to heal.

Cost of Breast Reduction

The cost of breast reduction varies depending on several factors, including the extent of surgery, the surgeon's level of experience and the geographical location, with surgery being more expensive in densely populated metropolitan areas than in less-populated rural locales.

The three main costs of surgery are the surgeon's fee, the anesthesia fee and the facility (operating/recovery room) fee. Other expenses include medications, bandages and other items needed during recovery. Altogether, your breast reduction surgery may cost anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000.

Because it is performed to relieve physical and psychological symptoms, breast reduction is often at least partially covered by medical insurance. In addition, most plastic surgeons offer financing to help their patients afford the expense of surgery.

Breast Reduction for Men

While breast reduction is most often performed on women, a type of breast reduction surgery is available for men who suffer from enlarged male breasts, a condition known as gynecomastia. Although the procedural steps are obviously quite different for men, the goals of surgery are similar to those of women seeking surgery: relief from physical and emotional difficulties caused by excessive chest tissue.

Get Started

If you are ready to consult with a surgeon regarding breast reduction surgery, get started now by visiting our directory of ABPS-certified plastic surgeons.