Breast reduction surgery is a cosmetic and medical surgical procedure to remove glandular tissue, fat and skin from the breast to achieve a more proportional sized breast relative to the body. It is commonly performed to treat symptomatic breast hypertrophy in women. Up to 6% of all cosmetic surgical procedure in the United Kingdom involves breast reduction, which is also known as mammoplasty.
Symptomatic breast hypertrophy is characterised as chronic shoulder and back pain, backache, peripheral neuropathy, and headache caused by disproportionately sized breasts. Other related health complications caused by breast hypertrophy include cuts and rashes caused by tight undergarments. Breast hypertrophy usually manifests itself during the onset of puberty or in the third month of pregnancy owing to dramatic oestrogen fluctuation in the body.
Breast hypertrophy can also trigger psychosocial and psychological issues relating to peer acceptance, bullying and taunting, which could lead to long-term body image and self-esteem issues. In addition, the condition is also capable of causing disruptions to every day physical activities by limiting mobility and agility.
Currently, mammoplasty is viewed as the gold standard treatment option for breast hypertrophy. In fact, it is also the favoured medical therapy for gynaecomastia for men.
A plastic surgeon at work. Image by Lt. Arwen Chisholm, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The surgery is normally performed on an outpatient basis (contingent on the breast size) and patients can usually return home on the day of surgery. However, as a precaution, doctors may recommend an overnight stay to monitor for signs of complications such as hematoma and swelling. Patients are generally placed under general anaesthesia, which will be supplemented by local anaesthesia for more complex cases.
Surgery is performed by making small incisions around the areola and nipple area, and occasionally, below the crease of the breast. Surgeons usually use short scar techniques to efficiently remove the tissue, fat and skin from the breast. For extremely large breasts, surgeons may need to surgically remove and reapply the areola and nipple to ensure they remain in the centre of the breast. The entire procedure typically takes between two and four hours to complete.
Numerous studies have shown that patients are generally pleased with the result of the surgery. While the reduction will be noticeable immediately, the breast may take a few weeks to return to a natural state. Most patients report drastic decline in shoulder and neck pain in the immediate aftermath of the surgery, and this contributes heavily to a sudden improvement in their quality of life.
The recovery time for mammoplasty is about two weeks, although full healing can take up to four months. Physicians recommend patients to wear surgical bra for at least two weeks, ideally three weeks, after the surgery. During the period, they must avoid doing any heavy lifting and strenuous physical activity.
Although breast reduction surgery is generally considered as a low risk procedure, complications may still arise in rare instances. Some of the more common issues include:
• Excessive bleeding
• Soreness and swelling
• Loss of sensation around the areola and nipple area.
• Inability to breastfeed
• Asymmetrical and irregular breast shape
• Uneven nipple location
Please speak to your doctor if any of the issues above occurs.