Breast Reduction (Reduction Mammoplasty) Surgery Information
Written by Medical Quality Manager, Clare , BN (Hons)
Medical Review by Chief Commercial Officer, Dr. Lizzie Tuckey , MBBS, BA
A breast reduction, also known as 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 surgery. To help patients in their research, this overview provides a breakdown of the procedure costs and a short introduction to surgical techniques, patient preparation, and aftercare.
1.5 to 3 hours
1 to 2 nights
6 - 12 months
Patients may consider breast reduction surgery when their breasts cause physical or emotional discomfort or are simply unhappy with the breasts’ shape and large size.
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 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,
Does breast reduction surgery include a breast lift?
The reduction mammoplasty procedure is often described as a two for one procedure. This is because the procedure for reduction is nearly identical to that for a breast uplift. The only difference is that breast tissue is also removed during breast reduction surgery to reduce the size of the breasts. Lifting the breast corrects breast sagging, also called ptosis, as visualised in the diagram below.
How much does a breast reduction cost?
The price of breast reduction surgery can be between £4000 to £7000. On average, you can expect to pay around £6000 for the breast reduction procedure in the UK. There are various factors that could contribute to price fluctuations, such as:
- Surgeon experience
- Chosen Hospital
- Anaesthetist experience
- The complexity of the procedure for your case
- Amount of hours required in surgery for your case
- Additional combined procedure requirement
In order to get a tailored price adapted to each personal case, patients will need to be examined by a surgeon to ensure that the procedure can be done considering their individual needs. A patient's personalised price will be all-inclusive and take into account all your requirements; the tailored breast reduction price will cover:
- Highly rated CQC hospital cost
- Surgeon's experience (BAAPS/BAPRAS)
- Anaesthetist time and expertise
- Any overnight stays that are required
- Follow-up appointments and aftercare
A breast reduction consultation is free with no obligation. The consultation enables patients to ask all their important questions, get to know a surgeon and for the surgeon to assess them and make them aware of the possible outcomes of their surgery.
Finance, Insurance & the NHS
Can I have breast reduction surgery on the NHS?
There is a chance that the NHS will cover breast reduction surgery, but it can be difficult to be deemed eligible. It may be possible if the need for surgery is due to health reasons.
If the motivation is purely cosmetic, patients will have to find alternative options and look to the private sphere. The local Clinical Commissioning Group decides the decision about eligibility for NHS funding.
Patients are more likely to be considered for a breast reduction procedure with the NHS if their large breasts cause some or all of the following problems:
- Chronic back, neck or shoulder pain
- Reduced mobility, restricted movement or inability to exercise
- Skin irritation or rashes under your breasts
- Psychological distress, low self-esteem and poor self-image
Patients experiencing any of these problems should speak to their GP. They may inform patients that there is a chance to be eligible for breast reduction surgery on the NHS, but this will likely leave less flexibility or no choice of surgeon.
What are my finance options for breast reduction surgery?
Breast reduction surgery is available to patients who either intend on self-paying or through a payment plan.
Self-paying patients include those willing to pay with their savings or those who are seeking financial plans from external providers or banks. We also offer a financing option available for patients interested in paying in monthly instalments for their procedure.
Medbelle financing can be paid back over the course of up to 5 years on a monthly basis. Patients are welcome to make additional payments as and when they like.
To be eligible for Medbelle finance, patients need to be:
- Over 18 years of age
- Working a minimum of 16 hours a week
- Living in the UK for the past three years
For more advice on financial planning and funding breast reduction surgery or more information about any of the issues raised on this page, a Patient Care Adviser can help.
Is breast reduction surgery covered by private insurance?
No, unfortunately, private insurance will not cover breast reduction surgery, nor will it cover any of our other cosmetic procedures. We do offer options for financing breast reduction surgery.
Anyone unhappy with the large size of their breasts for physical and/or emotional reasons may benefit from breast reduction surgery as long as they are in good physical and mental health.
Candidates & Medical Conditions
Anyone unhappy with the large size of their breasts for physical and/or emotional reasons may benefit from breast reduction surgery as long as they are in good physical and mental health.
Why do patients have breast reduction surgery?
Physical complaints related to large breasts include:
- Neck, back and/or shoulder pain
- Problems finding clothes that fit well
- Indentations or irritation on the shoulders caused by bra straps
- Difficulty moving the upper body or arms
- Inability to sleep comfortably lying flat on their back
- Discomfort during exercise, especially high-impact movements like jumping or running
- Irritated skin where the breast touches the torso
Emotional, mental and cosmetic reasons for breast reduction surgery include:
- Unhappiness with breasts that are unequal in size and/or shape
- Dislike of unwanted attention drawn because of large breasts
- A desire to change the look of the breasts
- Unhappiness, discomfort or dysmorphia related to the size of the breasts
What makes someone an ideal candidate for breast reduction surgery?
As for any major operation, ideal candidates should be physically and emotionally healthy before having breast reduction surgery.
Being in the best possible health can increase the likelihood of being a good candidate for surgery. Great ways to help patients optimise their health for surgery include:
- Getting regular exercise
- Eating a healthful diet low in salt and high in lean protein
- Feeling mentally prepared for surgery & recovery
- Reducing or stopping alcohol consumption
- Stopping smoking
- Stopping any nicotine use in e-cigarettes, patches, or any other form
- Stopping any recreational drug use
Patients wanting support to quit smoking can read this Medbelle blog article to find out why it’s so important to quit, speak to their Patient Care Adviser and reach out to their local stop smoking service provided by the NHS.
Age and weight restrictions
The BMI or Body Mass Index is a number calculated using a patient's height and weight. Generally, healthcare providers believe this number can be used as one indicator of a patient's eligibility for surgery.
You can calculate your BMI via this site provided by the NHS.
Usually, a patient must have a BMI below 30 or 32 before having any surgery, including a breast reduction. This is because the likelihood of complications during surgery increases when a patient has a BMI higher than this.
In the UK, the minimum age for any elective surgery is 18 years of age.
Patient's as young as 16 may be eligible for breast reduction surgery if their guardian or guardians provide consent.
However, Medbelle surgeons strongly recommend younger patients wait until they are at least 18 years of age to have breast reduction surgery because the body is still developing and growing until around this age.
Results from breast reduction will likely last longer if the patient is completely physically mature before the surgery is performed. This is because there is a chance the breasts can continue growing after surgery if it is performed when the patient is still growing.
Patients with extremely large breasts might have a rare condition known as gigantomastia. Patients suffering from this have abnormally excessive breast tissue growth. Due to the extreme weight of the breasts, the physical symptoms as listed above can be even more intense and can lead to nerve injury affecting nipple sensation.
The exact cause of gigantomastia is unknown, although research suggests it is linked to puberty, pregnancy and hormonal changes. Treatment for gigantomastia is a breast reduction with or without hormone treatment.
The results reported from patients express substantial physical and mental relief. It may be the case that gigantomastia may return for some patients and need a second breast reduction.
Pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding
Patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding are not eligible to have breast reduction surgery.
Any person who has recently given birth must wait at least three to six months before having any breast surgery, including breast reduction.
Waiting a few months allows the body to return to normal after childbirth and pregnancy. This is important as it makes sure the surgeon has a clear idea of the changes and techniques they need to use in order to get the desired results because any residual swelling or injury has had time to heal completely.
If you have surgery too soon after having a child, there is a strong possibility that the results will not be stable and heal in the ways the surgeon predicts. It’s also important to know that breast reduction surgery can potentially impact or completely stop the ability to breastfeed. This is a very important factor to consider before committing to having surgery if you want to have children but have not yet started.
When pregnant, the body goes through physical and hormonal changes in preparation for birth and breastfeeding. Oestrogen levels increase during pregnancy, causing breast size to grow; many patients say that their breasts are about one cup size bigger. This is not the only change for the breasts, they will often feel more tender, and the areolas and nipples will often become darker and become larger.
After giving birth, further hormonal changes, including oxytocin and prolactin, will increase milk production, making the breasts feel engorged. When patients stop producing milk, the breasts become smaller and less engorged. The skin only has a certain amount of elasticity, and so it’s common for the new shape and position of the breasts to be droopy and feel deflated. The position of the nipples will also be affected and more likely to droop.
For this reason, surgeons often recommend any breast reduction patient finish having children before having surgery. For more information about breastfeeding and breast reduction surgery.
If you have any questions about your eligibility for breast reduction surgery, feel free to get in touch with your Medbelle Patient Care Adviser.
Breast reduction surgery generally lasts one and a half to three hours long 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 the surgeon uses to separate is 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 the results you want.
Types of incisions for breast reduction surgery
Reduction mammoplasty 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 breast reduction patients report their surgical scars healed extremely well and are difficult to see after recovery (six months to one year after the operation). Some photos of the healed results of patients can be found here.
The type of incision your surgeon will use during the 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 doughnut incision that goes around the areola.
- Suitable for small reductions
- Vertical, also called a lollipop incision, 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
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 reduction mammoplasty 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
- The 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 the 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. Plastic surgeons do not commonly use this method as there is poor preservation of nipple sensation, and the ability to breastfeed is completely stopped. It is usually reserved for patients requiring very large breast reductions. After the excess breast tissue is removed, the incisions are closed, and the surgery is over.
Breast reduction surgery results are not necessarily permanent
Breast reduction surgery aims to remove excess skin and breast tissue to reduce the size of an individual's breast/s. However, what the surgery cannot offer is permanence. If the patient gains or loses weight, then the results are likely to be affected. The same can be said for pregnancies and breastfeeding.
Having surgery will offer some relief to patients who struggle with large breasts, whether physically or emotionally. To help maintain the results, surgeons recommend patients be at their goal weight for at least three months before surgery and have completed their family before having the procedure.
The surgeon will, of course, discuss likely outcomes in consultation.
You cannot guarantee a cup size
Cup sizes vary vastly between individuals. What is a D cup for one person is a C for another, and this is not to mention the different sizing of various shops and brands. Having an ideal cup size in mind is a good indication to the surgeon how much you wish to reduce your bust by; however, it's very unlikely the surgeon can guarantee that precise size. Instead, your surgeon may talk in terms of CC (cubic centimetres) or grams to manage your expectations and prepare you for likely results.
Scarring and other changes
Breast reduction surgery is invasive and does require incisions. The placement of the incisions will differ depending on the scale of the reduction, but unfortunately, the incisions are unavoidable. This is one of the many reasons you should select a highly qualified BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeon who has had years of experience performing these procedures.
Patients can help minimise the effects of scarring by following these guidelines:
- Keep the scars out of the sun for up to a year after the breast reduction surgery. UV light will make the scars more prominent and could increase the chances of developing skin cancer on the healing skin.
- Massages and silicone gels and stripes should be used as per the surgeon's recommendation.
- Listening to when the body needs rest and not overexerting during recovery will allow the incision sites to close smoothly.
- Allowing time for the body to heal and the scars to fade more and more.
Surgery is an emotional and physical challenge
Often in the media, surgery is sold as a "quick fix", but undergoing a breast reduction takes its toll on the body and emotions. The surgery can often run smoother and be less stressful for patients when they consider the time and help they’ll need to have the surgery:
- Organising child or pet care
- Taking time off of work, sometimes for many weeks, depending on how physically active the job is
- Relying on friends and family for support during recovery
- Preparing for the surgery, be it losing that last little bit of weight, stopping smoking, raising the last bit of funds to pay for the procedure
- Is the timing for surgery emotionally the right time
The consultation with a surgeon will last anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour and will take place either at their private practice or within a consultation space. Some surgeons often like to have two consultations before surgery.
The surgeon will discuss a number of topics during the consultation. These include:
- Why the patient wishes to have surgery
- The 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 allergies
- The results of any biopsies and mammograms previously had
- Any current prescription or over-the-counter medications
- Any current alcohol, tobacco and recreational drug use
When recommending a procedure plan, your surgeon will take into consideration the following factors:
- Current breast shape and size
- The patient’s ideal breast size and shape
- The quality of breast tissue and skin
- The quantity of breast tissue and skin
Risks & Complications
As with any surgery, there are risks and complications associated with breast reduction surgery. It is essential that you are aware of all these risks before you commit to having surgery.
The surgeon will discuss all relevant breast reduction risks and complications before the patient agrees to have the procedure. The information below should be considered a short overview of possible breast reduction risks and complications:
An infection develops when bacteria grows in a wound, provoking an immune response. Infection is a breast reduction risk as it is with any surgery.
Symptoms of an infection can develop within one to two weeks after breast reduction surgery.
It is essential you contact your GP and aftercare/post-op team as soon as you notice any of these symptoms of a low-grade infection:
- Increased pain that is not eased with painkillers
- Warmth or redness that starts at the incision site and grows in size
- Red streaks around the incision site
- Any foul-smelling liquid or pus leaking from the incision
- A fever over 38° C
Signs of infection should never be ignored. For most patients, an infection can usually be easily treated with antibiotics if caught and diagnosed quickly. This is why it is so important to contact your surgeon if you recognise any of these infection symptoms.
If an infection is allowed to progress, it can severely and negatively impact the look of final results from breast reduction and lead to serious health problems like sepsis.
Patients following a breast reduction are at risk of blood clots because of their limited mobility in the days and weeks following surgery.
Clots after surgery usually develop in the so-called deep veins in the legs, arms, and torso but are most common in the legs. When a clot develops in a deep vein, it is called deep vein thrombosis or DVT for short.
If your surgeon believes you are at higher risk of a blood clot after breast reduction surgery, they may prescribe you wear compression stockings until you are able to go about your normal activities again. Compression stockings aid blood flow to the legs and help prevent clotting just like the compression bra worn while healing from breast reduction surgery.
Though a blood clot is unlikely to form after breast reduction surgery, it is important you are aware of the risk and understand the symptoms.
Symptoms of DVT can present in the leg, arm or torso depending on where the clot has developed. They are usually confined to the area of the body where the clot has formed.
The symptoms of DVT include:
- Throbbing pain
- Swelling, warmth and redness
- Soreness or skin sensitivity
- Very red or darkened skin
If you develop any of these symptoms in the weeks after your surgery, contact your GP or surgeon immediately.
If the blood supply to areas of the skin, fat, breast tissue or the nipple is lost during breast reduction surgery, the tissue may die. This results in a breast reduction risk called necrosis.
Tissue necrosis is much more likely to develop in smokers than non-smokers. This is one reason it is so important to refrain from smoking or using nicotine products before and after surgery.
Areas of necrosis in the breast may feel lumpy, uneven and hard. Occasionally, this may interfere with the interpretations of breast scans such as mammograms.
If tissue necrosis does occur after your breast reduction, you may need further surgery to remove any dead tissue and repair your breast or breasts.
Bruising & bleeding
Bruising and bleeding are a natural part of the healing process after breast reduction surgery. Some light bleeding and bruising may happen in a week or two following surgery.
Abnormal bleeding or bruising may be a sign that you have a bleeding complication like a haematoma.
A haematoma is similar to a bruise but more severe and deeper in the body. It is a large amount of swelling that is red in colour and very painful. Contact your surgeon or healthcare professional immediately if you see these symptoms form on or near your breasts after breast reduction.
Scarring is a natural part of the healing process after surgery. Scars will naturally form wherever the surgeon makes incisions on the body.
For some patients considering breast reduction, the risk of scarring is a major deciding factor. It is important to know that choosing a skilled surgeon is the best way to ensure you are happy with your breast reduction results.
Also, a highly experienced surgeon who is a member of BAAPS/BAPRAS will have up-to-date training on the best methods to reduce the look of scarring after breast reduction surgery.
Depending on the skin quality and predisposition to scarring, there may be fairly obvious scarring on the breasts after breast reduction surgery. Your surgeon may recommend silicone patches and massage once the incisions completely heal.
Keep in mind that the look of scaring can improve for years after surgery as the colour lightens and they blend into the skin.
Very thick, raised scars called keloid scars are a breast reduction risk and can form on any patient. If you have ever developed a keloid scar from an incision or injury, you are more likely to develop them again.
Patients with dark skin tones are also more prone to developing keloid scars. More information about dark skin tones and scarring after breast reduction surgery here on the Medbelle blog.
Common areas for keloid scars are the shoulders, neck, upper chest and anywhere on the head, including the earlobes. However, keloid scars can develop anywhere on the body. Keloid scars are known to grow over time and can be difficult to treat.
If you develop a keloid scar after breast reduction, your surgeon may prescribe steroid injections into the scar, steroid-infused bandages, or even revision surgery.
Altered breast sensation or numbness after breast reduction surgery
The nature of breast reduction means some nerve endings may be disturbed after surgery. This can result in feelings of heightened sensitivity or numbness after breast reduction surgery.
These changes in sensation or numbness after breast reduction surgery can resolve themselves over time as the nerve endings grow back and the breasts heal. However, there is a risk that this numbness or change in sensation may be permanent.
Modern surgical techniques reduce the likelihood of permanent sensitivity or numbness after breast reduction surgery, especially around the breast and nipple. We recommend discussing altered breast sensation with your surgeon if you have concerns.
If you do have altered breast sensation or numbness after breast reduction surgery, you will likely be recommended to wait and see if it improves as your breasts heal.
Pseudoptosis (bottoming out)
Pseudoptosis (pronounced sue-doe-TOE-sis) is the medical term for bottoming out. This means the crease of the breast, where the breast tissue meets the torso, migrates lower than its natural position.
When bottoming out happens after breast reduction surgery, the lower portion of the breast tissue droops downwards. As the majority of the breast volume moves lower on the chest, this results in the nipples looking like they are placed very high on the chest.
Bottoming out after breast reduction is more likely to occur in patients who have an Inverted T style incision and have a large amount of tissue removed during surgery. This can happen to one or both breasts after breast reduction.
While there are no pain or health risks associated with the breasts bottoming out after breast reduction surgery, this complication directly impacts the aesthetic results after surgery.
Bottoming out after breast reduction can usually only be resolved via a revision breast surgery. Most surgeons will only recommend revision breast surgery after the breasts have healed from the initial breast reduction.
Generally, patients must wait up to three to six months before they are healed enough to have revision breast surgery.
After breast reduction surgery, pockets of clear fluid called seroma can form around incision lines.
Seromas are generally not a harmful breast reduction risk. They are not likely to impact the look of the final breast reduction results. The majority of small seromas heal by themselves as the body reabsorbs the fluid.
The surgeon may prescribe having larger seromas drained. This is a quick process that can be done during a follow-up appointment.
There is a very small chance that the seroma will not be reabsorbed by the body, which results in a capsule forming around it. Usually, these encapsulated seromas are removed surgically.
Loss of the nipple and areola
The loss of the nipple and areola is a relatively unlikely breast reduction risk. It is more commonly associated with a free-nipple graft breast reduction procedure than more modern techniques.
During a free-nipple graft breast reduction, the nipple and areola are completely removed from the breast and reattached after the tissue is removed. This increases the risk of tissue necrosis and numbness and completely blocks breastfeeding after surgery.
Less invasive pedicle methods that keep the nipple and areola attached to the breast tissue are much more common breast reduction techniques today. While the nipple and areola can still be lost after a pedicle method of breast reduction, it is much less likely to occur.
If the nipple is lost after surgery, reconstructive surgery can be performed once the breast is healed. While the reconstructed nipple will have no ability to breastfeed, it will improve the aesthetic look of the breast.
Aesthetic issues or unhappiness with results
While your surgeon will do everything in their power to give you the results you want from breast reduction, there is a risk you may be unhappy with the look of your breasts after surgery.
The best way to prevent this is by being well-informed about the realities of the procedure and having realistic expectations for your results.
It’s important to keep in mind that it can take up to a full 12 months for final results to be visible as the breasts continue to heal. In fact, aspects like scaring generally continue to improve for years after surgery.
If you are unhappy with the look of your breasts after surgery, you will need to wait at least six months to have any revision surgery. You may even be recommended to wait longer as your healing journey continues.
How to prepare for a breast reduction?
It is important to be prepared before having a breast reduction. Preparing well 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 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 from 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 postoperative days. This prevents you from 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 may 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 six 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 homoeopathic medications can increase the risk of complications occurring. Your surgeon will discuss your medications and recommend the best course of action to take. Certain homoeopathic medications can increase the risk of bleeding and bruising after surgery; it is usually recommended you stop taking them at least two weeks before your operation. These medications can include:
- St John’s Wort
- Multivitamin preparations
- Medications containing ginger, ginkgo, garlic and cod liver oil.
Your surgeon will give you specific advice for your breast reduction preparation.
Post-Surgery & Aftercare
Breast reduction aftercare: what to 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 the 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.
Rest well and take time off work
It is normal to feel tired and lethargic following breast reduction surgery. Make sure you listen to your body and rest properly. Your surgeon may recommend that you sleep in an upright position to help reduce the swelling, and it is advised to sleep on your back rather than your stomach for up to six weeks after your breast reduction surgery. It is also advised to take the full week off work if you can.
Keep active and eat well
While it is essential that you let your body rest, you should also begin to engage in light activity in the days after breast reduction surgery to prevent blood clotting. Take short walks around the house or in your local area but do not push yourself. Take your time getting back into any regular sport or workout regimes you may have; your surgeon will have more tailored advice for your specific situation.
Eat high-protein, low-sodium foods to give your body all the right nutrients to recover from surgery. We also advise plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as lots of caffeine-free beverages and water.
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 six weeks have passed, you should be able 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 five days to two weeks before you are able to start driving again, depending on your surgeon’s advice.
Breast reduction surgery will leave scarring around your nipples and breasts. These scars will soften and fade over a period of about 12 months but looking after them properly is the best way to ensure you achieve the best cosmetic results.
You should keep your scars out of the sun for the next 12 months and, in the event that you do expose them to sunlight, use a high sunscreen factor. This will help prevent discolouring or darkening the scars.
You should also keep the treatment area clean. Your surgeon will inform you when you can shower and bath again following your surgery. But until that point, use a sponge with soap and water to keep the incisions clean and dry them properly.
The healing wounds may well feel itchy. You should avoid scratching them as much as you can. If you notice they begin to feel too dry, use moisturisers or bio-oil to gently massage them and keep the area hydrated.
After the incisions have fully healed and scabs have completely disappeared, you may wish to have scar massages or use scar gels for between six months to a year. While these are not essential, they can help to get the best cosmetic results from your breast reduction surgery. Silicone gel, cream or sheets are also recommended. They 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.
Patients will be able to see an immediate change to their breasts straight after your operation, but it may take six to twelve months before you can appreciate the full cosmetic appearance. It is therefore important to be patient.
Your 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.
Breast reduction surgery: recovery journey
Like any surgical procedure, there is no one-size-fits-all recovery timeline. Every person’s body is different and reacts differently to an operation.
For some patients, they can find themselves ahead of the recommended recovery schedule and notice rapid improvements in mobility and a reduction in pain quite early on. Others may find that they still feel pain for several weeks or even months after their surgery.
Whichever description best fits you and your experiences, you should know that both can be entirely normal. There are many factors that can explain a quicker or slower recovery.
You should inspect your scars and the treatment area regularly to make sure you are not experiencing any surgical complications or infections. Also, make sure you are honest with yourself and honest with your surgeon in any follow-up consultations. That way, you can receive the most personalised and tailored advice for your situation. Nevertheless, in this article, we are providing you with a broad and general journey of recovery. While we understand that it may not always be completely accurate for each patient’s real-life recovery journey, it still presents good general estimates into when you can expect to engage in activities again and when life can return to normal.
1-2 days after surgery
- The anaesthetic will still be in your system; you may feel drowsy and lethargic.
- The treatment area and the wounds will be sore.
- Bruising and swelling are to be expected.
- The swelling will lead to a large and ‘projected’ appearance; this will settle over time.
- Bathing and showering must be done very carefully - usually, you will be advised to bathe with warm soapy water and a sponge for the first 72 hours.
- The skin around your breasts may feel tight.
- Wear your post-operative bra (if recommended) during the day and overnight.
- Stay rested during this time.
- Drink plenty of water and clear fluids.
3-4 days after surgery
- Pain medication will likely still be necessary - listen to your body
- Very light activities will now be possible again; short walks around the house are recommended to prevent blood clotting
- Some stretching and movement may now be possible, but don’t push yourself
- Avoid rigorous movement and sexual activities; even sexual arousal can irritate the incisions
- Continue to wear your post-operative bra
- Sleep in an upright positive with plenty of pillow support to help reduce the stress on your breasts and reduce swelling
1-2 weeks after surgery
- Keep your wounds clean and inspect them regularly
- White tape (steri-strips) will be removed within the first ten days
- Mobility remains difficult and possibly painful, do not engage in strenuous exercise or do any unnecessary heavy lifting
- Tingling, swelling and numbness are all still typical symptoms during this time
- Pain medication may still be necessary throughout this time
- You may now engage in sexual activities again
- Continue to wear your post-operative bra
3-4 weeks after surgery
- Pain and swelling will have mostly passed
- You may now stop wearing your post-operative bra, continue to do so if you wish or if your surgeon recommends
- Begin engaging in light activities and exercises like walking, cycling or treadmills
- Continue to avoid ball sports, contact sports or rigorous movement
- Give your scars the proper attention and care: keep them clean, dry and away from sunlight
- Altered sensations on the skin are still possible; your breasts and nipples may still feel numb
6 weeks onwards
- Adjust your sleeping position back to normal if it is comfortable for your breasts
- Pains may still occur, but less frequently and severely than before
- Swelling may also still occur, particularly during your menstrual cycle when swelling and soreness is natural
- Heavy lifting may now be possible; It may now be possible to lift heavier items such as suitcases and grocery bags. Although it is essential not to push yourself, even after six weeks
- Workouts do not rush into things - you could otherwise undo all that hard work throughout your recovery!
3-6 months onwards
- Ball sports and contact sports may be possible, but you should only engage in what feels comfortable for your breasts and for the treatment area
- Numbness and a lack of sensation around the nipple may still occur, it can take up to a year for this to pass
- Swelling may, in some instances, still be apparent
- It can take up to six months to see the final results
If you want to find out more about the breast procedures that we offer please check our Breast Surgery page.
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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:
Breast Reduction Surgery Cost FAQs
Breast Reduction Surgery FAQs
Breast Reduction Surgery Risks and Complications FAQs
Our Patients' Stories
Debbie's Breast Reduction
There’s no question for me that I made the right choice. It was one of the best things I could have done for myself. It changed my life.
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More Breast Surgery Procedures
Discover other breast surgery procedure options
All of the information found on our website is sourced from highly reputable experts, government-approved authorities and is widely used by healthcare professionals.
- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/breast-reduction-on-the-nhs/ NHS
- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cosmetic-procedures/breast-reduction-female/ NHS
- https://baaps.org.uk/patients/procedures/7/breast_reduction British Association of Aesthetic, Plastic Surgeons
- https://www.bapras.org.uk/public/patient-information/surgery-guides/breast-reduction British Association of Aesthetic, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons
- Understand.com Understand
- https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/9450/gigantomastia Rare Diseases
- https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/breast-changes-during-pregnancy-960/ American Pregnancy
Discover more about breast reduction surgery
Breast reduction surgery is a popular treatment which can improve quality of life for many patients by addressing emotional, aesthetic issues or easing upper-body pain