In many ways a breast reduction and breast lift are similar. A breast reduction reduces the overall volume of the breast parenchyma, the excess skin is excised to drape over the gland, and the nipple areola complex is lifted into a more aesthetic position. A mastopexy or breast lift is similar in that the gland is lifted and often parenchymal sutures are used to shape the breast, the skin is then draped over the gland, the excess skin is removed, and the nipple areola complex is raised to a more aesthetically pleasing position. While some tissue may be removed during a breast lift, it is often minimal in most cases. In many ways, the amount of tissue removed is really the biggest difference. There are many different techniques that are used to perform these procedures. The skin can be excised in an inverted “T” fashion or what is sometimes referred to as an anchor incision. This means that there will be stitches around the areola, vertically from the base of the areola to the breast fold, and also along the inframammary fold in a transverse fashion. A common alternative is a lollipop incision pattern in which there are only stitches around the border of the areola and vertically from the base of the areola to the breast fold, thus eliminating the inframammary incision. The breast parenchymal tissue can be treated using various tissue pedicles most commonly using an inferior pattern, but this can also be vertically, superomedial, or superolateral. Modifications of the breast lift procedures are sometimes performed when a patient desires breast implants as well. A circumareola lift can sometimes be offered when only the nipple has to be raised a short distance.
Am I a good candidate for breast reduction?
In order to say if a patient is a good candidate for a breast reduction, she would have to be seen in person. An examination in person will allow the surgeon to evaluate any asymmetries, and appreciate the weight of the breasts and possible volume that can be removed from each breast. Obviously, a breast reduction is performed on a patient with very large breasts that wants them to be smaller. Commonly, the patient has symptoms of bra strap grooving, neck or back pain, and potentially has rashes underneath the breasts. Symptoms like back pain or neck pain may not improve with a reduction, but there are scientific studies suggesting that it does help many women who have breast reductions. There are many different techniques that can be employed to perform a breast reduction. The skin pattern design often employs the use of an inverted “T” or anchor type incision, or a lollipop type of incision. Various parenchymal excision patterns can be used. They are named by the orientation of the blood supply feeding the nipple areola complex. The design of the skin pattern and the choice of the pedicle will vary from patient to patient based upon their anatomy and the surgeon’s experience.
Should I get a breast reduction?
The choice to undergo breast reduction surgery is totally up to the patient. If the patient has very large breasts that she desires to reduce whether it is strictly for cosmetic reasons, or because she has symptoms such as bra strap grooving, neck or back pain, or rashes is a personal choice. Aesthetically, the breasts can be made smaller by removing the excess tissue and skin to alleviate the excess weight and pressure that heavy breasts can cause, as well improve the position of the nipple and in most cases reducing the overall diameter of the areola as well. When to have a breast reduction is another issue. Again it is a personal choice. Some women undergo the surgery in their late teens and early 20’s before having children, while others undergo the surgery later in life. There is no defined best time in life to have it performed. Patients choose when it fits into their life.
What is the recovery time for breast reduction surgery?
A breast reduction is often performed as an outpatient. This procedure takes about 2-4 hours to complete. Patients often go home wearing light dressings that are covered by a surgical bra. Many surgeons place drains during the procedure which are commonly removed within a week or so after surgery depending upon the amount of drainage. Most patients will be able to go back to light duty within 5-7 days after the procedure, provided that they are healing well and have had no complications. Many patients will be able to go back to light aerobic activity within about 3-4 weeks. Heavy lifting and strenuous workouts can be started about 6-8 weeks after surgery if all goes well. It is always best to check with your surgeon as you are healing to see when it is right for you.
Will a breast reduction help back pain?
Patients with large breasts may have back pain. Back pain can be caused by many different things. Back pain may improve with a breast reduction. Intuitively it makes sense, because surgery will reduce the overall weight of the breasts, thus putting less stress on the back. There are numerous studies in the literature that support this concept. I do tell patients that back pain can occur for many different reasons and that symptoms may not improve after breast reduction. Fortunately, many patients do have improvement of back pain after undergoing a breast reduction.
Are there techniques to limit the amount of “anchor” type incisions?
For many patients I have been using a limited incision approach that creates a “lollipop” type of closure (a circle around the border of the areola and a vertical line from the lower border of the areola to the inframammary fold). In other words, the entire inframammary incision of the “anchor” type of wound closure is eliminated! This can be done for most patients except for those with excessively large breasts requiring more than 2-3 pounds of tissue to be removed from each breast.
Can I breast feed after breast reduction surgery?
It is difficult to predict whether or not an individual will be able to breast feed after breast reduction surgery. Some women who are very small breasted, before surgery, can produce a lot of milk while some very large breasted women cannot. Inevitably during surgery some of the parenchyma is removed. There are many patients who can still breast feed. Again, this depends upon the individual patient.
Will I have normal sensation in my nipples after breast reduction surgery?
Many patients will have some change in sensation after the surgery. Some patients with excessively large breasts do not have sensation in their nipples before surgery. In fact, after breast reduction surgery some of these patients recover nipple sensation although the etiology is not well defined. However, there are a percentage of patients who will have diminished sensation that persists after 1 year. Nipple sensation may vary a bit. Commonly patients can have a change in sensation right after surgery due to swelling. Most patients will have improvement in the first six to eight weeks after surgery once most of the swelling subsides. However, a patients’ sensation after surgery may be permanently changed. Some studies suggest that 85% have normal sensation.
What kind of incision will I need for a breast reduction?
There are several types of incisions that can be used to perform a breast reduction. The two most common are a vertical incision closure and a “T” incision closure. The vertical incision closure is shaped like a lollipop. The incision goes around the border of the areola and then descends in a vertical fashion from the inferior border of the areola down to the breast fold. An inverted “T” incision, or an anchor incision, is the other popular incision closure. This incision goes around the border of the areola and then extends vertically below the areola to the breast fold, unlike the vertical reductions; it also includes an incision along the breast fold.
What is a vertical breast reduction?
A vertical breast reduction is one of a variety of short scar breast reductions that often refers to the type of closure performed. The name was originally derived from the pedicle or how the nipple areola complex receives its blood supply. The most common types of vertical procedures include those described by Lassus, Lejour, Hall-Findley, and Hammond. Lassus and Lejour are techniques in which the nipple areola complex is supplied by a vertical pedicle. The Hall-Findley procedure uses a medial pedicle, and the Hammond technique that he calls a SPAIR (short scar periareolar inferior pedicle reduction), is an inferiorly based pedicle. The short scar vertical techniques are commonly used for patients who require a smaller breast reduction, have reasonably good skin quality, and do not require the nipple areola complex to be elevated too much.
Who is a candidate for a “T” incision breast reduction?
A “T” incision or anchor incision breast reduction includes a variety of techniques. The nipple areola complex can be carried on a mound of tissue that supplies blood inferiorly, laterally, centrally, superiorly, or medially. The inferior pedicle design is often considered the most versatile. It can be used for patients with large and long breasts, and also in those whose nipple areola complex has to be moved a long distance.
Will I still have fullness after a breast reduction?
It is certainly possible to maintain fullness and a nice shape after performing a breast reduction. Taking out too much tissue may compromise the overall shape.
Will I have a “boxy” breast after a breast reduction?
A “boxy” breast is the shape of a breast sometimes occurring after a breast reduction. The breast can look somewhat “squarish” or “boxy”. In my opinion, the two most common causes are related to: 1) the pattern design of the skin excision, 2) making the breast two tight in the midline. Following the natural curve of the breast will hopefully eliminate the potential for a boxy breast. By not taking out too much skin in the midline will help reduce the risk of developing a “boxy” breast.
Will a reduction improve the shape and tighten my saggy breasts?
Yes! Part of performing the breast reduction is not only to reduce the volume of tissue, but also to raise the nipple areola complex as necessary and tighten the skin envelope. So in effect, reduction techniques are commonly used for breast lift techniques. It’s like a two for one procedure. If you think of it as a car, the car headlights will hopefully be pointing forward not downward.
Will I need drains after a breast reduction procedure?
Typically, I prefer to use closed suction drains for the majority of my breast reduction patients. They are removed when the drainage is deemed low enough.
Can I just have liposuction of my breasts?
Liposuction alone is performed by some surgeons to reduce the overall volume of the breast. Because the breast consists of fatty tissue and glandular tissue, liposuction can be used to address this fatty portion. So reducing the volume is possible. However, skin tightening or elevating the nipple areola complex cannot be done by liposuction alone. In other words, for patients with very large breasts with low nipple areola complexes, and a lot of skin, liposuction is probably not a good choice. Liposuction may be best for small asymmetries.