What’s a Breast Reduction?
A breast reduction procedure is called reduction mammaplasty in medical terms. Women with overly large breasts may choose this procedure for aesthetic reasons, or to alleviate back pain or other discomfort. Though it’s not the most common cosmetic surgical procedure, over 41,000 women chose breast reduction in 2013.
If you’re considering breast reduction surgery, make sure you’re choosing it because you really want it, not to please someone else or to fit an imagined ideal. No one else can make the choice for you; it’s your body, and you’re in charge of it. After you do your research and understand the procedure, if you believe that breast reduction is right for you, then proceed. To help you in your decision-making process, we have some information about the risks and benefits of having a male breast reduction procedure at Breast Reduction (Female): Risks and Benefits.
If you’re a man who’s considering breast reduction surgery for gynecomastia, we have a separate page with information on the male breast reduction procedure.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential elective surgery with your own doctor(s), including your primary care physician and the surgeon who will perform your surgery if you decide to proceed.
How it’s done
Breast reduction is done under general anesthesia. After the anesthetic is administered, and the skin is thoroughly cleaned with a liquid which may temporarily stain the skin yellow, the incisions are made. There will be one around the areola, and additional incisions as needed to remove excess tissue and reshape your breasts. Removal of excess fat, glandular tissue, and skin will then be performed. When the desired breast volume and shape have been reached, the incisions will be sewn closed with layers of sutures. The outer layer (the one you see) may be fine sutures, skin adhesive, or medical tape. The incision will be dressed and a support bra put on, which will put pressure on the area to reduce swelling and facilitate healing.
If you’re choosing breast reduction surgery, make sure you’re choosing it because you really want it, not to please someone else or to fit an imagined ideal. No one else can make the choice for you; it’s your body, and you’re in charge of it. After you do your research and understand the procedure, if you believe that breast reduction is right for you, then proceed.
Preparing for the procedure
Choosing your surgeon
When choosing a surgeon, you want a highly-trained professional with experience in this type of surgery. A member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has received at least six years of surgical training after medical school, with three of those specifically in plastic surgery. Look for the designation “ASPS” after the surgeon’s name. Also, choose a surgeon with whom you feel comfortable and safe, and who listens to you and tries to understand your goals. If you have friends who’ve had cosmetic surgery, and you like their results, ask for a referral. While cost may be a consideration, don’t allow this to override more important factors in your decision. Your safety and the quality of your results are worth a little extra spending.
For more help in your search for a plastic surgeon, visit our How to Find the Best Plastic Surgeon page. At Doctor Review, you can also search providers for patient reviews to help you find the very best.
Getting ready for surgery
You will have at least one appointment with your surgeon before surgery. You’ll have the chance to discuss your goals with your surgeon in detail, to communicate how much reduction of breast volume you’re aiming for.
The day before your surgery, you should eat and drink enough healthy food and water, and get enough sleep the night before. You will need to stop eating 8 to 12 hours before your surgery. If you smoke, you should stop for at least 24 hours before the surgery. If you take daily medications to prevent blood clots, such as aspirin, you will likely be asked to stop those for 24 to 48 hours before the surgery (proceed as directed by your doctor, and don’t stop any medication without talking to your doctor first).
You will stay at the surgical center in the recovery room for several hours following surgery, for the anesthesia to wear off. You should then plan to spend 24 to 48 hours recovering at home with minimal activity, and your activity will be reduced (no strenuous exercise or lifting heavy objects) for about a week or two following surgery. You may have a thin tube called a drain placed under your skin, to prevent excess fluid from collecting and delaying your healing. You can resume your normal activity at the direction of your surgeon, who will see you for at least one postoperative visit several days after surgery. If sutures were used to close the skin, they’ll likely be removed at this appointment. If drains were placed, they will also likely be removed by your surgeon at this visit, unless there’s a need for them to stay in longer.
Make sure you take it easy during your recovery! Too much activity could delay your healing and may lead to your scars not looking ideal. It’s also very important to take care of your incisions, keeping them clean and watching for signs of infection, and to wear your support bra to minimize swelling and allow healing. Even after you’re cleared to resume normal activity, you should expect to have some soreness and swelling for around 4-6 weeks after surgery. It may take a year or even longer for the incision lines to fully fade, though they will eventually become nearly invisible in most women.