Breast reduction surgery, which doctors may call reduction mammoplasty, is a medical procedure that reduces the overall size of a person’s breasts.
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In this article, we discuss breast reduction surgery, including the procedure and how it differs between males and females, what to expect during recovery, and the associated risks.
People who have overly large breasts that cause neck, shoulder, or back pain may benefit from breast reduction surgery.
Large breasts can make exercising and other activities difficult. Having large breasts can also have negative psychological effects, as some individuals feel self-conscious about their breast size.
Doctors may recommend breast reduction surgery for males who have gynecomastia, which is a medical condition in which the breast tissue swells due to high levels of estrogen.
Breast reduction surgery can help improve people’s physical and psychological well-being.
A doctor will first determine whether someone is a candidate for the surgery. This evaluation can include:
- a routine breast examination
- a mammogram
- the reviewal of a person’s medical history
- urine, blood, and other lab tests
A breast reduction usually takes place under general anesthesia. Most people go home straight after surgery, but some do spend 1–2 nights in the hospital.
Before surgery, a person may need to stop taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, as these can increase bleeding.
Doctors also encourage people who smoke to quit several weeks before the procedure. Smoking will increase the risk of nipple or areolar damage, tissue necrosis, and other complications. Therefore, it is essential that people discuss any tobacco product use, including vaping, with the doctor.
The plastic surgeon performing the procedure will use a marker to draw guidelines for the incisions. The size of the breasts, the position of the nipples, and the person’s preferences will determine the exact incision pattern.
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A surgeon starts by making an incision around the areola. Then, they continue the incision beneath the breast, at which point they may remove excess skin from the sides of the breast.
After making the incisions, the surgeon will remove excess breast tissue, reshape the remaining tissue, and reposition the nipple and areola. The surgeon will close the remaining skin with sutures and surgical tape.
If the breasts are particularly large, it may be necessary to remove the nipples and areolas from the body and then place them back on the breasts in a procedure called a free nipple graft. The nipples will regrow into the new position, but they will usually be permanently numb afterward.
After the procedure, the surgeon or a nurse will wrap the breasts in gauze bandages. The insertion of small tubes into the breasts is sometimes necessary to drain excess fluid and reduce swelling after the operation. People should avoid showering until a nurse removes these drainage tubes.
The goal of male breast reduction surgery is to remove any excess fatty or glandular tissue to achieve a flatter, firmer-looking chest.
Extra breast tissue in males is called gynecomastia.
Males undergoing breast reduction surgery will receive a local or general anesthetic before the procedure. The procedure can involve liposuction, excision, or a combination of the two.
Liposuction can correct gynecomastia that is due to excess fatty tissue. The surgeon will make micro-incisions along the sides of the breast and insert a thin tube called a cannula. The surgeon will use the cannula to loosen and remove excess fatty tissue.
Gynecomastia can also cause excess skin and glandular breast tissue. In this case, a surgeon will use excision techniques to cut off this tissue.
After reducing the size of the breast, the surgeon will reposition the areola and nipple, if necessary, and close the incisions with sutures.
Most people can go home a few hours after the surgery, as long as they do not experience any complications.
Before they leave the hospital or clinic, they will receive specific postoperative instructions that cover what types of oral and topical medications can help reduce pain and scarring and prevent infections.
People will need plenty of rest while their breasts heal. They should avoid any movements that might stretch the chest muscles or tear the sutures.
People may have difficulty lifting their arms during the first couple of weeks, so they may want to ask a close family member or friend to help them during this time.
They should avoid heavy lifting for several weeks or until a doctor removes their sutures.
People may experience minor complications after breast reduction surgery, such as:
- open wounds or slow healing of the incisions
- excess fluid in the breast tissue
- cellulitis, or infection of the connective tissue
- loss of sensation in the nipples or breasts
- asymmetric appearance of the breasts or nipples
- prominent or thickened scars
- allergic reactions to anesthesia or other medications
Smoking can increase the risk of complications and delay the healing process. People who have obesity may also have a higher risk of postoperative complications.
It is important to note that the breasts may have very small asymmetries after surgery. Most breasts are not exactly the same size or shape to begin with, and the surgeons do try to remove more tissue from the bigger side. However, after the procedure and months after the completion of the healing process, there may be small differences between the breasts.
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According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, breast reduction procedures cost, on average, approximately $5,680. People will also need to pay for the cost of consultations and follow-up appointments.
Some insurance companies may partially or completely cover the cost of breast reduction surgery if a person needs this procedure to relieve chronic pain or other medical problems.
People who are thinking about having breast reduction surgery may wish to contact their insurance company to inquire about coverage.
Breast reduction surgery is a relatively safe and effective medical procedure that reduces the overall size of a person’s breasts.
A plastic surgeon will remove excess fat, breast tissue, and skin through incisions underneath the breasts. They may also reposition the nipple and areola.
Breast reduction surgery is an outpatient procedure with minimal risks. Rare complications include infection, scarring, and loss of sensation in the nipples or breasts.
People considering breast reduction surgery can make an appointment with a board certified plastic surgeon. At the appointment, the surgeon will evaluate a person’s medical history and current health status to determine whether breast reduction surgery is a suitable option.