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A Woman's Guide to Breast Augmentation
and Breast Implants
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Breast Reduction Surgery

February 22, 2012

by Christine G. Adamo

Breast Reduction Basics

Persistent problems with pain, posture and self image related to over-large breast size sometimes lead women (and, to a lesser degree, men) to seek out breast reduction surgery – or reduction mammaplasty. 

Signs you may be a breast reduction candidate include self talk which sounds like this:
  • “I wish my breasts were smaller”
  • “I wish my body was more proportionate”
  • “I wish I could make this back pain go away”
  • “I wish my breasts didn’t weigh me down, literally”
  • “I wish my breasts were lighter and my nipples higher”
Often, a tremendous amount of discomfort accompanies large breast size.

Some people live with that discomfort longer than they need to, but breast reduction surgery can help at any time. During reduction mammaplasty, a qualified plastic surgeon removes excess fat, glandular tissue and skin from the breasts. The procedure may be able to help you achieve more proportionate – and less limiting – breast size. Many breast reduction surgeries are covered by insurance so ask your plastic surgeon about it.

Why Breast Reduction?

Breast reduction falls into the reconstructive category of plastic surgery. Used to correct the size, shape and weight of over-large breasts, it can provide relief from a variety of physical stressors and promote a more positive self image. It can also bring your body into better balance aesthetically. (As a side note, breast reduction for men is referred to as gynecomastia.)

Breast reduction can restore balance in these and other ways:

Physical

  • By alleviating overall pain & discomfort
  • By reducing the volume of your breast tissue
  • By lessening your risk for related health problems
  • By giving you the freedom to participate in more activities
  • By reducing skin rashes, irritation, skin grooves & breast pain
  • By relieving back pain, poor posture &/or back & shoulder deformity

Emotional

  • By alleviating emotional pain & discomfort
  • By reducing self-consciousness about over-large breasts
  • By fostering a more positive self image & greater self confidence

Aesthetic

  • By lifting & repositioning sagging breasts
  • By tightening skin that’s stretched over time
  • By raising nipples that rest below the breast crease
  • By creating a more proportionate & slender silhouette
  • By improving the overall size & shape of breasts, nipples & areolas

Breast Reduction Surgery

You probably have questions about breast reduction cost and outcomes…

Those are best addressed in consultation with a trained, experienced and board-certified plastic surgeon. That person should be able to explain the entire process to your satisfaction. As for outcomes, ask to see breast reduction before and after photos. But, before scheduling a consultation it never hurts to understand the basics.

Breast reduction is usually performed via incisions made on the breasts through which excess fat, glandular tissue and skin are removed. Liposuction may also help with fatty tissue removal. If fatty tissue alone – and not excess skin – has caused large breast size, liposuction alone may work. Ask your plastic surgeon if that’s a realistic option.

Various breast reduction techniques are used, but its basic steps include:
  • Anesthesia
  • Incision or Incisions
  • Fat, Tissue &/or Skin Removal & Repositioning
  • Suturing of Incision(s) & Bandaging
  • Recovery
Anesthesia – The goal of anesthesia is to ensure your comfort during surgery; this may include IV sedation or general anesthesia

Incision or Incisions – Incisions are similar to those used in breast lift. They take many forms and leave visible scars which are usually hidden under clothing; shapes include circular, keyhole, racquet, inverted “T” and anchor

Fat, Tissue &/or Skin Removal & Repositioning – Breast tissue volume is reduced and what remains is lifted into place and reshaped; in some cases, the nipple and areola are removed and repositioned higher on the breast and, as needed, excess skin is removed

Suturing of Incision(s) & Bandaging – Once the breasts are reshaped, sutures are applied to bring the skin together; suturing helps shape and provide support for your “new” breasts and may include the use of stitches, skin adhesives and/or surgical tape

Recovery – While you’ll see immediate results, your breasts will initially be swollen with prominent incision lines; elastic bandages and support bras help reduce swelling and support your breasts during the healing process (which extends beyond surgery).

While preparation for breast reduction surgery is important, recovering properly and healing completely will give you the most positive, long-term results. Follow instructions provided by your plastic surgeon to get the most benefit from this procedure and to protect yourself against infection.

Breast Reduction Risks

The promise of more manageable breast size is rewarding, but you need to be aware that – like any surgery – risks are involved when you undergo a breast reduction. Weigh the benefits and risks with your plastic surgeon before following through.

Breast reduction risks or potential side effects may include:
  • Infection or slow healing
  • Poor response to anesthesia
  • Bleeding, blood clots &/or bruising
  • Short- or long-term pain &/or scarring
  • Changes in nipple or breast sensation
  • Swelling, breast firmness &/or fluid accumulation
  • Breast asymmetry &/or irregularities in shape or color
  • Nerve, blood vessel, muscle &/or other tissue damage
Minimize your risk by making sure your plastic surgeon is experienced and board-certified. Confirm that the location where your breast reduction will be performed is state and/or nationally accredited. If a plastic surgeon (or his/her staff) does not take your questions and concerns seriously, keep looking.

The complications listed above may indicate a need for, or suggest that you’d benefit from, additional or revision surgery. If after breast reduction you experience shortness of breath, chest pains, unusual heartbeat or a 100+ deg. fever, get immediate care.

Breast Reduction Wrap Up

Are you a good candidate for breast reduction surgery? If your own idea of the perfect body includes a reduction in breast size, you’re on the right track. You should also be in good, overall health. If you smoke, tell your plastic surgeon.

If, however, you’re anxious about having breast reduction surgery, put the idea on hold. Excitement is one thing…but, you shouldn’t be worried about making the wrong decision. Step back and take time to think your options through more clearly.
A breast reduction may hinder your ability to breast feed or get mammograms and other health screenings. Future pregnancies or sudden weight gain/loss can adversely affect post-reduction breasts. Lastly, your breasts should be fully developed prior to surgery.

If you have questions about any of those topics or just want to know more about breast reduction, consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon who has proven experience.

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