Breast reduction surgery, also known as reduction mammaplasty, is a procedure used to remove excess fat, tissue and skin from the breasts. If you have large breasts, you might choose to have breast reduction surgery to ease discomfort or to achieve a breast size proportionate to your body.
Breast reduction surgery might also help improve your self-image and your ability to participate in physical activities.
If you're considering breast reduction surgery, consult a board-certified plastic surgeon. It's important to understand what breast reduction surgery entails — including possible risks and complications — as well as set realistic expectations.
Breast reduction surgery is meant for women who have large breasts and want to resolve issues such as:
Breast reduction surgery generally isn't recommended if you:
You can have breast reduction surgery at any age — sometimes even as a teenager. But if your breasts aren't yet fully developed, you might need a second surgery later in life.
You might postpone breast reduction surgery if you have certain future plans, such as:
Breast reduction surgery has the same risks as any other type of major surgery — bleeding, infection and an adverse reaction to the anesthesia. Other possible risks include:
Your plastic surgeon will likely:
Before breast reduction surgery, you might also be asked to:
Ask your surgeon whether you'll be able to go home the day of the surgery or whether you'll need to spend a night in the hospital. Arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery or when you leave the hospital.
Breast reduction surgery is usually done under general anesthesia, either in a hospital or outpatient surgical facility.
The specific technique used to reduce the size of your breasts can vary. The procedure might include:
The surgeon usually:
The nipple and areola:
Your surgeon will try to achieve symmetry between your breasts, but some variation in breast size and shape might occur. The size of the areola also might be reduced. Your incision scars might fade over time but will never completely disappear.
Immediately after surgery:
For the first days or week after surgery:
Scarring usually fades over time. You will need a follow-up visit with your surgeon to remove stitches and check your recovery.
Successful breast reduction surgery can relieve pain in your upper back, neck and shoulders. It might also increase your ability to participate in physical activities and promote a more positive self-image.
Although you'll see results immediately, remember that it can take months for the swelling to completely go down and the surgical scars to fade. The final result is generally permanent — although breast shape and size can change due to factors such as aging and weight gain or loss.
The typical anchor-shaped incision in breast reduction surgery allows the surgeon to remove excess breast tissue, fat and skin and raise the nipple and areola, as shown on top. After the excess tissue is removed, the surgeon brings the skin underneath the breast together with stitches, as shown at bottom.