Breast Reduction Surgery
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A breast reduction, also known as a boob reduction or reduction mammoplasty, is a surgical procedure that aims to reduce the size of the breasts. It is the second most commonly performed plastic surgery procedure performed in the UK after breast enlargement. To help you in your research, this overview provides a short introduction to the surgery, preparation, and aftercare.
Why have breast reduction surgery?
You may consider reduction surgery if your breasts cause you physical or emotional discomfort, or if you are simply unhappy with the shape and/or large size of your breasts.
Reducing the size of the breasts via breast reduction surgery can help to:
- Balance a difference in breast size
- Provide the breasts with a smaller and more aesthetically pleasing look
- Reduce unwanted attention associated with large breasts
- Make movement and exercise easier
- Ease neck, back, and/or shoulder pain
- Ease skin irritation under the breasts
- Make it easier to fit in clothes like button-up shirts or dresses
You can learn more about the ways this surgery can ease upper-body pain here on the Medbelle blog.
Does breast reduction surgery include a breast lift?
Medbelle Patient Care Advisers often describe reduction surgery as a two for one procedure.
This is because the procedure for reduction is nearly identical to that for a breast lift. The only difference is that more breast tissue and skin is removed during a breast reduction.
Lifting the breast corrects breast sagging, also called ptosis, as visualised in the diagram below.
Who are BAPRAS and BAAPS?
When searching for a plastic surgeon to perform your breast reduction, make sure you choose one that is a member of either BAAPS or BAPRAS. BAAPS (The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons) and BAPRAS (The British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons) are the two leading societies for plastic surgeons in the UK. Surgeons belonging to these societies receive regular training which keeps their surgical and patient communication skills up to date.
We strongly advise that you check if your surgeon is a member of either BAAPS or BAPRAS before booking a procedure.
Where in the UK does Medbelle provide Breast Reductions?
Birmingham, Bridgend, Chester, Goole, Huddersfield, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Nottingham / Leicester, Rochdale, Sawbridgeworth, Solihull, West Sussex & Windsor
Your Breast Reduction Consultation with A Medbelle Surgeon
Medbelle consultations always take place with the surgeon who will perform the surgery. With Medbelle, you can rest assured you’ll have every opportunity to get to know your surgeon and make an informed decision before committing to having surgery.
What should I expect during my breast reduction surgery consultation?
The surgeon consultation will last anywhere between 15 minutes to 1 hour and will take place either at their private practice or at a Medbelle consultation space.
Your surgeon will discuss a number of topics with you during the consultation. These include:
- Why you wish to have surgery
- Your desires and expectations for surgery
- The potential risks & complications related to surgery
- Any personal or family history of breast cancer
- Current and past medical conditions, including any allergies you have
- The results of any biopsies and mammograms you may have had
- Any prescription or over-the-counter medications you may be taking
- Any current alcohol, tobacco and recreational drug use
When recommending a treatment plan, your surgeon will take into consideration the following factors:
- Your current breast shape and size
- Your ideal breast size and shape
- The quality of your breast tissue and skin
- The quantity of your breast tissue and skin
Breast reduction candidates
Why have a breast reduction?
Anyone unhappy with the large size of their breasts may benefit from breast reduction surgery. Although some patients choose to have this procedure done for cosmetic reasons, many choose to have it done to mitigate the unpleasant physical symptoms they experience because of heavy breasts.
Physical complaints caused by large breasts include:
- Neck, back or shoulder pain
- Problems finding clothes that fit well
- Bra straps causing indentations on the shoulders
- Mobility issues including discomfort during exercise
- Irritated skin where the breast touches the torso
A breast reduction can also be done for cosmetic reasons. For these patients, a breast reduction can address complaints such as:
- Breasts with unequal size or shape
- Unwanted attention given because of large breasts
- A desire to change the look of the breasts
Ideal candidates are physically and emotionally healthy before surgery. Pregnant or nursing people should not have breast reduction surgery. If you have recently given birth, you should wait 3 to 6 months before having breast surgery and ensure you are done breast feeding. Breast reduction surgery can impact or impede your ability to breast feed, so it is an important factor to consider before booking your procedure.
Optimising general health can increase suitability for breast reduction surgery. You can achieve this by doing regular exercise, reducing alcohol intake, eating a healthy diet, and stopping smoking or any nicotine use.
What can a breast reduction achieve?
Breast reduction surgery aims to:
- Reduce the size of the breasts
- Remove any excess skin
- Adjust the position of the nipple and areola
- Potentially reduce the size of the nipple and/or areola
In many cases, breast reduction also includes breast uplift (mastopexy). Combining these two treatments can create a better aesthetic result. Whether or not your surgeon suggests including breast uplift to your treatment depends on how much smaller you want your breasts to be. Generally, smaller reduction amounts do not require a breast uplift.
Keep in mind your surgeon will be able to tell you during your consultation the specific details of what a breast reduction can achieve for you.
How is breast reduction surgery performed?
This surgery generally lasts 1.5 to 3 hours depending on some factors including how much tissue will be removed. It is always performed when the patient is under general anaesthetic, meaning they are given medicine that forces them into a dreamless sleep.
The type of incision your surgeon uses is separate to the technique they will use to remove the excess tissue. This means there are many different procedures your surgeon can choose from in order to get you results catered to your body and results you want.
Types of Incisions for Breast Reduction Surgery
Breast reduction surgery requires your surgeon to make incisions on each breast to remove breast tissue and skin. These incisions are where scars will be after you recover from surgery.
While scaring can be a barrier to having surgery, keep in mind that many Medbelle breast reduction patients report their surgical scars heal extremely well and are difficult to see after recovery (6 months to 1+ year after the operation). You can see some of the healed results of Medbelle patients here.
The type of incision your surgeon will use during surgery depends on how much skin and tissue will be removed. The more that is removed, the larger the incision must be.
There are three types of incisions used for breast reduction:
- Circumareolar also called a donut incision that goes around the areola
- Suitable for small reductions
- Vertical also called a lollipop incision that goes around the areola and down to the crease of the breast
- Suitable for small to moderate reductions
- Inverted-T also called an anchor incision that goes around the areola, down to the crease of the breast, and then continues across the crease of the breast
- Suitable for large reductions
- Suitable for large reductions
Types of Breast Tissue Removal Techniques
A pedicle is a surgical technique that keeps the nipple and areola attached to an amount of breast tissue that remains untouched during surgery.
This method ensures the nipple and remaining breast tissue have a constant connection to a blood supply and nerves while the excess breast tissue is removed.
There are two types of pedicles used during breast reduction surgery:
- Inferior pedicle at the lower part of the breast
- Tissue removed comes from the upper part of the breast
- Very popular technique especially when combined with an anchor incision
- Suitable for very large reductions
- Superior pedicle at the top part of the breast
- Tissue is removed from the lower part and sides of the breast
- Mostly used in combination with lollipop incisions
Keeping the nipple and breast tissue attached to blood supply is associated with better preservation of nipple sensation, less likelihood of complications, and a higher chance of successful breastfeeding after recovery compared to free nipple grafting.
Free Nipple Graft
The free nipple graft is now a very uncommon technique. A free nipple graft requires the nipple and areola to be completely detached from the breast. They are reattached after breast tissue has been removed.
Medbelle surgeons do not commonly use this method as there is poor preservation of nipple sensation and the ability to breastfeed is completely stopped.
After the excess breast tissue is removed, the incisions are closed and the surgery is over.
Breast reduction patients usually spend 1 or 2 nights in hospital after surgery.
What are the potential risks & complications associated with breast reduction surgery?
As with any surgery, there are risks and complications associated with breast reduction. It is essential that you are aware of all these risks before you commit to having surgery.
The risks and complications associated with breast reduction include:
- Excessive or keloid scarring
- Bruising & bleeding
- Numbness or altered breast sensation
- Blood clots
- Altered shape or bottoming out where the lower portion of the breast droops and causes the nipples to look as if they are placed very high on the breast
- Tissue necrosis
- Loss of the nipple and areola
- Aesthetic issues or unhappiness with results
Preparing for Your Treatment
Breast reduction preparation
How can I prepare for a breast reduction?
It is important for you to prepare before you have your breast reduction. Preparing well for your breast reduction can also help you through your recovery period. Below are some breast reduction preparation tips that may be helpful for you:
You will not be able to drive straight after your surgery. It is therefore important for you to arrange for a family member or friend to help you get home safely after your operation. We also recommend that they stay with you for the first 24 hours after surgery, as you will still be recovering from the anaesthetic.
It may be really useful to get some household chores done before you go in for your operation. Taking the bins out, cleaning and doing a big grocery shop before your breast reduction will give you more of a chance to rest after your operation. It may be also be helpful to cook some meals and freeze them so that you do not have to worry about cooking either!
Try to place hard to reach cupboard items such as mugs, crockery and dry food on the kitchen counter. This will prevent you having to stretch to reach them, which can help your recovery as stretching can place strain on your incisions.
Children & pets
A breast reduction is quite an invasive procedure. It is therefore important that you rest well and do not exert yourself. You should therefore ask your family and friends to help look after young children and pets whilst you are recovering.
Sleeping on your back, in an inclined position for the first few days after your surgery can help reduce swelling and bruising. You can do this by having lots of extra pillows on your bed.
Clothing & post-operative garment
It may be more comfortable for you to wear clothes that fasten easily from the front in the initial post-operative days. This prevents you reaching up to pull clothes over your head, which places strain on your stitches. Straining your stitches can increase the time it takes your wounds to heal.
You will also have to wear a post-operative garment after your breast reduction. Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on which garment to wear, how tight to wear it, and how long you must keep it on for.
Maintaining a healthy diet will help you through your recovery. This includes eating food that is low in salt and sugar, having as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible, and drinking lots of water and caffeine-free drinks.
Smoking & alcohol
Smoking, taking recreational drugs and drinking large amounts of alcohol can all have a negative effect on your recovery. It is essential that you stop smoking and using all nicotine products at least 6 weeks before and after your breast reduction. Smoking lengthens your recovery by delaying the time it takes for your wounds to heal. It also greatly increases the risk of infection.
It is very important to notify your surgeon of all the prescription and over-the-counter medications that you take. Certain prescription and homeopathic medications can increase the risk of complications occurring. Your surgeon will discuss your medications and recommend the best course of action to take.
As certain homeopathic medications can increase the risk of bleeding and bruising after surgery, we recommend you stop taking them at least 2 weeks before your operation. These medications can include:
- St John’s Wort
- Multivitamin preparations
- Medications containing: ginger, ginkgo, garlic and cod liver oil.
Breast reduction aftercare
What can I expect after a breast reduction?
Your surgeon will give you advice for your breast reduction aftercare and recovery. They will discuss the following topics:
After your breast reduction, you will most likely need to spend one or two nights in hospital. Before you leave however, a post-operative appointment will be arranged for you. This appointment will allow your surgeon to examine your breasts, remove any stitches that are not dissolvable and treat any complications.
Time off work
In general, if you have an office job, you will need to take approximately 1 to 2 weeks off work after your breast reduction. If you have a job that requires more physical activity, you will need to take at least 2 weeks off. You surgeon will give you specific instructions on when you can return to work.
Return to sports & exercise
After you have your breast reduction, you will need to rest well and not exert yourself. You will need to start slowly when you begin exercising again. The general advice is as follows:
Week 1 – 3
Avoid all sports and exercises for the first three weeks after your breast reduction. Even minor aerobic sports may increase swelling and bruising.
Week 3 – 6
Three weeks after your breast reduction, you should be able to resume light aerobic exercises such as cycling. You should however be careful not to exert yourself too hard.
After week 6
After 6 weeks have passed, you should be able to to resume all sports, exercises and heavy lifting again.
Each surgeon will have different advice about when it is appropriate for you to resume sports and exercise after your breast reduction. It is therefore very important to follow the advice that your surgeon has personally given you.
As you will not be able to drive immediately after your breast reduction, you must arrange for a friend or family member to take you home. It may take 5 days to 2 weeks before you are able to start driving again, depending on your surgeon’s advice.
Although scarring is inevitable after a breast reduction, there are a number of techniques that can help aid the healing of scars. These include:
- Scar massage – gently massaging your scar after it has healed may help the skin to heal.
- Silicone gel, cream or sheets – silicone based products have been clinically proven to help reduce the appearance of scars. It is important that you use these products only after your incision has healed.
- Avoid sun exposure & sunbeds – you can help protect your scars by protecting them from sunlight and sunbeds. This not only protects the healing skin, but it also avoids darkening the scars.
You will be able to see an immediate change to your breasts straight after your operation but it may take 6 to 12 months before you can appreciate the full cosmetic appearance. It is therefore important to be patient!
Your Medbelle BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeon will give you specific advice regarding your breast reduction aftercare. It is vital to follow the instructions your surgeon gives you as this is specific to your recovery.
Related articlesBreastfeeding After Breast Reduction
How breast reduction surgery influences your breastfeeding journey
Find out how breast reduction can ease back pain and general discomfort
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What Exercises Can I Do?
Understanding the link between large breasts and shoulder and neck pain
How to reduce the risk of prominent scars on black skin following breast reduction surgery.
Breast reduction FAQs
Make sure you research your breast reduction procedure well before you go in for your surgery. The following breast reduction FAQs may help answer some common questions:
Can I get a breast reduction through the NHS?
Although possible, it can be quite difficult to get a breast reduction done on the NHS. It is often only offered to patients who are experiencing distressing symptoms. If you think you might be a candidate, you should speak to your GP first.
How long after pregnancy can I have a breast reduction?
You should wait at least 3 to 6 months after a pregnancy before having a breast reduction. This is to allow enough time for your breasts to settle before you have your procedure.
How long after breastfeeding can I have surgery?
As with pregnancy, you should wait at least 3 to 6 months after you have stopped breastfeeding before you have your breast reduction procedure.
Will I still be able to breastfeed after a breast reduction?
As your surgeon is likely to remove some milk glands and ducts during a breast reduction, this can effect your ability to breastfeed post-operatively. Many women can still breastfeed after surgery, but this depends heavily on the tissue removal technique that your surgeon uses. Certain surgical techniques will have more of an effect on your ability to breastfeed than others. For this reason, it is very important to notify your surgeon if you are planning to breastfeed in the future.
What effect do drugs have on a breast reduction?
Smoking, drinking large amounts of alcohol and taking recreational drugs can all increase the risk of complications occurring during and after your breast reduction surgery. Smoking in particular can increase the risk of developing infections and can also delay wound healing. You must therefore stop smoking at least 6 weeks before and after your procedure.
Do I need a GP referral for a Breast Reduction?
Most plastic surgeons will see you for an initial consultation for your breast reduction without a GP referral. Your surgeon may however, contact your GP to get details of your medical history.
How can I minimise the risk of breast reduction complications?
You can also minimise the risk of complications by exercising regularly, reducing your alcohol intake, eating a healthy diet and most importantly, stopping smoking.
What effect will weight loss or weight gain have on a breast reduction?
The effect that weight loss or weight gain has on a breast reduction depends on the amount of fat left in the breasts and the degree of the weight change. Any major weight changes will most likely have an effect on the final results and appearance of the breasts. It is for this reason that we advise that you reach your optimal weight before having your breast reduction surgery.
If you still have any questions that do not appear under these breast reduction faqs, give us a call and we would be happy to help you.
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