What’s It Like: To get a breast reduction

What’s It Like: A breast reduction, also known as a reduction mammaplasty, is generally performed to relieve symptoms caused by large breasts.

BY JACLYN COSGROVE | Published: May 27, 2012

Why get a breast reduction?

A breast reduction, also known as a reduction mammaplasty, is generally performed to relieve symptoms caused by large breasts.

Having large breasts can affect how a woman leads her day-to-day life. For example, some women experience headaches while others might suffer from chronic back, shoulder or neck pain. Others might have skin problems under their breasts. Women with large breasts sometimes report that their bra straps leave deep marks on their shoulders from the pressure and weight. Carrying the weight from large breasts can be debilitating.

Posture is often a challenge for women with large breasts. Also, these women might be restricted with what kind of activities they can participate in. It’s also difficult to find clothes that fit properly.

A woman can get breast reductions at any age, pending what your doctor or surgeon says. Some organizations and surgeons recommend waiting until the breasts have finished developing.

Also, women who plan to nurse a child after a breast reduction should talk with their doctor about complications that might arise in regards to breast feeding.

Some insurance companies will cover breast reductions when they’re found to be medically necessary. However, getting the surgery covered can be complicated. It usually involves working with a doctor to document your symptoms. Before being approved for surgery, some insurance companies might require you to try therapeutic measures. For example, you might be asked to try physical therapy or anti-inflammatory drugs to see whether those measures relieve symptoms.

Some companies will cover the surgery if a surgeon would be required to remove more than one pound of tissue from each breast. Also, some insurance companies have age restrictions on when the surgery can be performed.

What happens when you get a breast reduction?

Precisely how the surgery is performed will vary from surgeon to surgeon, for plastic surgeons have their own techniques. It’s best to talk about this with your surgeon beforehand.

During the surgery, you will likely be put under. Most often, the surgeon will make a few cuts around and near the areola. After the incisions are made, the surgeon will reposition the nipple and remove and shape fat, skin and tissue.

The surgeon will relocate your nipples to a central location. For some women, the surgeon won’t have to remove the nipples entirely. However, for women who are in the largest breasts categories, the surgeon might use a technique known as a free nipple graft to remove the nipples entirely and place them back on the reduced breast.

When your surgeon closes the incisions, he or she will generally layer sutures within the breast tissue to create your newly shaped breasts. After the surgery, the surgeon might place drains that will help filter out excess fluid. These are generally removed within a few days of the surgery.

Does it hurt?

During the surgery, if you’re put under, you shouldn’t feel anything.

After the surgery, your breasts will be bandaged. It is best to talk with your surgeon before removing these bandages.

Your surgeon likely will prescribe some sort of pain medication. Your breasts might feel sensitive and might be swollen or bruised. You should avoid vigorous movements while your breasts are healing.

If your surgeon didn’t use dissolvable stitches, then he or she will likely remove your stitches within two weeks of surgery.

How long does it take to recover?

Your surgeon might suggest you take off about two weeks of work.

That’s about the time you should be able to taper off your pain medication. At that point, the pain should be getting more tolerable.

You might lose sensation in your breast skin or nipples after the surgery. That should return over time.

Some women report that they can feel relief in their backs and shoulders shortly after surgery, even while their breasts are still hurting from the surgery.

It can take months for the swelling and surgical scars to completely go away. Your

doctor might suggest you wear a certain type of bra to help reshape your breasts.

What are the risk factors?

One of the most common issues with a breast reduction is with wounds healing properly. For example, your sutures might pull apart. Those are usually easy for your surgeon to correct.

Other risks include unfavorable scarring, infection, poor wound healing, breast contour and shape irregularities, skin discoloration, damage to deeper sutures, excessive firmness of the breast and the possibility of revision surgery.

Some research shows that the risk of poor wound healing is higher in women with higher body mass index.

One of the worst risk factors relates to the blood supply for nipple. If there isn’t enough blood being sent to the nipple in its new position, it could die or come off.

With any surgeries, there’s a risk of infection, the formation of blood clots and also allergies related to the anesthetic.

Do you need follow-ups?

As you age, your breast size and shape will likely change. If you’re unhappy with how your breasts look, you could talk with your surgeon about a breast lifting surgery. It is best to maintain a relationship with your plastic surgeon so that you can discuss the long-term results of your surgery.

Source: Dr. Juan Brou, board-certified plastic surgeon, of Oklahoma City; Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, National Institutes of Health; The Mayo Clinic; Aetna; the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery



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