Breast reduction, also known as reduction mammaplasty, is a procedure to remove excess breast fat, glandular tissue and skin to achieve a breast size more in proportion with the body and to alleviate the discomfort associated with excessively large breasts also called macromastia. This surgery is a common plastic surgery procedure with the potential for considerable improvement of the patient’s quality of life in addition to its aesthetic value. According to the American Society for Plastic Surgery, statistics, about 43,591 breast reduction procedures were performed during 2018.
What are the reasons for breast reduction surgery?
Patients seeking breast reduction come in all shapes and sizes. Disproportionately large breasts can cause both physical and emotional distress for some women. These women may experience physical discomfort resulting from the weight of their breasts. The resulting pain can make it challenging for them to perform common physical activities. Along with the physical ailments of macromastia, some patients may suffer from emotional distress or more significant mental health problems as a result of their large breasts.
They also suffer from some medical problems like back pain, fungal infection of the folds between and underneath the breasts, irritation, and even abrasion wounds from the bra suspenders on the shoulders. Women with this condition have issues with their body image because of their breasts, they may avoid swim wears, have difficulties shopping for bras, or merely wish they could wear a buttoned blouse.
Some women may also just want the procedure to reduce the size of their breasts even though they do not have emotional or medical issues associated with macromastia. They may just prefer smaller breasts. Women who are lesbians or bi-sexual may also want this procedure to reduce the size of their breasts.
How does one prepare for the surgery?
Even though breast reduction surgery is plastic surgery, it is like other surgeries whose outcome depend a lot on the state of the body. It is important to be psychologically ready before one goes for the surgery. Other things to do include:
Exercise: The benefits of exercise and physical activity makes for better cardiovascular health and ensures better immunity and wound healing.
Eat healthy: A healthy diet comprised of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and low in refined carbohydrates and sugar is beneficial for good recovery after breast reduction surgery. Foods rich in antioxidants such as berries, pomegranate juice, and colored vegetables help to protect tissue, reduce inflammation, and set the stage for optimum healing.
Avoid cigarettes: Healing and good recovery from surgery is usually impaired in smokers compared to non- smokers.
Avoid blood thinners: People who take blood thinning medications may have to discuss with their surgeons to know when to stop taking them before the surgery.
Timing: Even though the breast reduction procedure can be performed at any age, but is best done when breasts are fully developed.
What does breast reduction surgery involve?
There are different techniques involved in breast reduction. It is advisable for a person about to have the procedure to talk with the surgeon and make an informed decision on which technique to choose. However, the operation generally involves:
Moving the nipple to its new position, usually while it’s still attached to the blood supply
Removing excess fat, glandular tissue and skin from the breasts, and
Reshaping the remaining breast tissue
The operation takes 2 to 3 hours, depending on the extent of the breast reduction.
What are the risks and complications of the surgery?
Medicine is not an exact science, there are risks to every procedure and the outcome desired may not always be practicable. A woman who wants to opt for this surgery should be aware of this fact, and also wound want to weigh the risks associated with the procedure against the benefits to make an informed decision. The risks which may affect the outcome of the surgery are:
Bleeding or accumulation of blood under the skin of the breast
Breast asymmetry, contour and shape irregularities
Changes in nipple or breast sensation, which may be temporary or permanent
Damage to deeper body structures like the nerves, blood vessels, muscles and lungs can occur and may be temporary or permanent
Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications which may be life threatening.
Excessive firmness of the breast
Fatty tissue deep in the skin could die (fat necrosis)
Poor wound healing
Potential loss of skin/tissue of breast where incisions meet each other
Potential, partial or total loss of nipple and areola
Skin discoloration, permanent pigmentation changes, swelling and bruising
Possibility of revision surgery to correct deficiencies
How will life be after breast reduction surgery?
The breasts are often swollen, tender, and lumpy after the procedure, but the swelling will decrease over the first few weeks, after which the result can be assessed. There may be small areas of opening along the incision line that may take longer to heal. It can take 2 to 6 weeks to fully recover from breast reduction surgery, but the swelling may last for around 3 months. The Scars from the procedure heal over the course of at least a year after surgery and may appear redder in the beginning then fade over time.
There is usually a high satisfaction rate among women who opt for breast reduction surgery. A study among such women after surgery reports a positive outcome after breast reduction surgery. Over 95% of the women surveyed were satisfied and would do it again. There was improvement of the women’s quality of life regardless of the amount of breast tissue removed.
What changes occur after breast reduction surgery?
Life is generally better for women who undergo this surgery successfully. However, it is important to note the following:
Breast reduction surgery can interfere with some diagnostic procedures
Breast and nipple piercing can cause an infection
There is reduced ability to breastfeed following reduction mammaplasty
Changes in the breasts during pregnancy can alter the outcomes of previous breast reduction surgery, as can significant weight fluctuations.
So if you are a candidate for breast reduction surgery, reach out to a good plastic surgeon and discuss your options.