Breast Reduction Side Effects

Reviewed by Walter Erhardt, MD

In breast reduction surgery, part of the breast tissue is removed to reduce the weight of the breast. This results in breasts with a smaller, lighter, more aesthetically pleasing appearance.

As with all surgeries, complications may include infection, bleeding or reaction to anesthesia. Immediately after surgery, there may be some pain, which can be treated by a prescription from the plastic surgeon. If the pain is more severe, additional follow-up visits may be scheduled.

(Male breast reduction for the treatment of gynecomastia carries its own set of risks.)

Loss of Breast and Nipple Sensation

Surgery may increase the possibility of nerve damage or reduced blood supply to the breast or the nipple. If this occurs, sensation can be lost temporarily or permanently in areas of the breast or nipple or both.

For very large breasts, it may not be possible to move the nipple and areola while leaving them attached to the nerves and blood vessels. In these cases, the nipple and areola may be removed and grafted into a new location on the breast, which may cause permanent loss of sensation.

There is also a risk that breast feeding will not be possible after surgery.

Permanent Scarring

Another side effect of breast reduction surgery is that it leaves permanent scars on the breasts. The vertical and horizontal scars are most visible, and scars remain after the breast is completely healed. Smoking blocks oxygen received by the body during the healing process, so for smokers, breast surgery scars are typically larger and less smooth. Any internal bleeding or excessive bruising caused by breast reduction surgery may also lead to increased scar size.

Some women are able to have a surgical procedure that requires fewer incisions, or incisions that are not as long. If the breast skin is elastic and the breasts are not too large, then liposuction can be used to remove the fatty tissue and shorter incisions can be used.

Breast Asymmetry

Another possible side effect of reduction plastic surgery is that the breasts may not be symmetrical in size and shape after surgery. Also, the nipple may not be positioned properly, or the nipples may not be the same height. During the procedure, the surgeon must remove a considerable portion of tissue and move the nipple while the patient is in a lying position. Advanced surgical skill is needed to estimate the exact nipple location and size-and-shape change, so that the breasts are symmetrical when the patient returns to an upright position.

A board-certified plastic surgeon can answer your questions about breast reduction side effects. An experienced plastic surgeon who has performed many breast reductions is less likely to leave excessive scarring, breast asymmetry, or damage to the nerves and blood vessels. Be sure to ask about your surgeon's background and experience with this procedure.