Breast reduction is surgery to reduce the size of the breasts.
Reduction mammoplasty; Macromastia - reduction
Breast reduction surgery is done under general anesthesia. This is medicine that keeps you asleep and pain-free.
For a breast reduction, the surgeon removes some of the breast tissue and skin. Your nipples may be moved higher to reposition them for cosmetic reasons.
In the most common procedure:
The procedure can last 2 to 5 hours.
Why the Procedure Is Performed
Breast reduction may be recommended if you have very large breasts (macromastia) and:
Some women may benefit from non-surgical treatments, such as:
Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general are:
Risks of this procedure are:
Before the Procedure
Ask your surgeon if you need a screening mammogram based on your age and risk of having breast cancer. This should be done long enough before surgery so if more imaging or a biopsy is needed, your planned surgery date won't be delayed.
Tell your surgeon or nurse:
The week or two before surgery:
On the day of surgery:
After the Procedure
You may have to stay overnight in the hospital.
A gauze dressing (bandage) will be wrapped around your breasts and chest. Or, you will wear a surgical bra. Wear the surgical bra or a soft supportive bra for as long as your surgeon tells you to. This will likely be for several weeks.
Drainage tubes may be attached to your breasts. These tubes will be removed within a few days.
Your pain should decrease in a few weeks. Ask your surgeon if you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to help with pain instead of a narcotic medicine. If you do use a narcotic medicine, be sure to take it with food and plenty of water. DO NOT apply ice or heat to your breasts unless your doctor has told you that is OK.
Ask your surgeon when it is OK to shower or bathe.
Within a few weeks, 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 may return over time.
Follow any other self-care instructions you are given.
Schedule a follow-up visit with your surgeon. At that time you will be checked for how you are healing. Sutures (stitches) will be removed if needed. Your provider may discuss special exercises or massaging techniques with you.
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, may disappear. You may need to wear a special supportive bra for a few months for comfort and to help with healing.
Scars are permanent. They will be more visible for the first year, but will then fade. The surgeon will make every effort to place the surgical cuts so that scars are hidden. Cuts are usually made on the underside of the breast and around the areola. Most of the time, the scars should not be noticeable, even in low-cut clothing.
American Board of Cosmetic Surgery website. Breast reduction guide. www.americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org/procedure-learning-center/breast/breast-reduction-guide. Accessed April 3, 2019.
Lista F, Austin RE, Ahmad J. Reduction mammaplasty with short scar techniques. In: Nahabedian MY, Neligan PC, eds. Plastic Surgery: Volume 5: Breast. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 10.
Review Date: 3/12/2019
Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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