Breast reduction is surgery to reduce the size of the breasts.
Breast reduction surgery is usually done under general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free).
For a breast reduction, the surgeon removes some of the breast tissue and skin. Your nipples may be moved higher to reposition them for cosmetic reasons.
In the most common procedure:
The procedure can last 2 to 5 hours.
Breast reduction may be recommended if you have very large breasts (macromastia) and:
Some women may benefit from non-surgical treatments, such as:
Breast reduction surgery is generally safe. Ask your doctor about these complications.
Risks of any surgery are:
Risks of any anesthesia are:
Risks of this procedure are:
If you smoke, you must stop. Women who smoke after breast surgery have a higher risk of poor healing, infection, and scarring. You should even avoid breathing in secondhand smoke.
Tell your surgeon:
On the day of surgery:
You may have to stay overnight in the hospital.
After surgery, a gauze dressing (bandage) will be wrapped around your breasts and chest. Or you will wear a surgical bra. Wear the surgical bra or a soft supportive bra for as long as your surgeon tells you to. This will likely be for several weeks.
Drainage tubes may be attached to your breasts. These tubes will be removed within a few days.
Your pain should decrease in a few weeks. Take pain medicine to control it. Be sure to take the medicine with food and plenty of water. Do not apply ice or heat to your breasts unless your doctor has told you that is okay.
Within a few weeks, the swelling and bruising around your incisions should disappear. You may have a temporary loss of sensation in your breast skin and nipples after surgery. Sensation may return over time. Your stitches, if any, will be removed within 2 weeks after surgery.
You are likely to have a very good outcome from breast reduction surgery. You may feel better about your appearance and be more comfortable with various activities.
Pain or skin symptoms, such as striation, may disappear. You may need to wear a special supportive bra for a few months to reshape your breasts.
Scars are permanent. They will be more visible for the first year, but will then fade. The surgeon will make every effort to place the cuts so that scars are hidden. Cuts are usually made on the underside of the breast. Most of the time, the scars should not be noticeable, even in low-cut clothing.
McGrath MH, Pomerantz J. Plastic surgery. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 69.
Roehl KR, Wilhelmi BJ, Phillips LG. Breast reconstruction. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD,Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 37.
Updated by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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