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Breast Reduction


Breast reduction surgery (or reduction mammoplasty) is a procedure to reduce the size of the breasts. The surgery is usually performed on women with overly large breasts who suffer from back or neck pain, shoulder grooving from bra straps, infections or rashes under the breasts, or even a feeling of numbness in their fingers due to the weight of the breasts. Overly large breasts can also interfere with sports and exercise. Breast reduction surgery alleviates these and other problems by removing portions of the breast skin, glands, and fat. Multiple scars will remain after the procedure. Though the results of breast reduction surgery are partially cosmetic, the procedure can help women pursue many activities they were previously unable to perform. Of all types of plastic surgery, women who have breast reduction are usually the most satisfied with the outcome.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, over 106,000 women undergo breast reduction surgery each year. Breast reduction surgery is one of the fastest growing areas of breast reconstruction; less than 40,000 women had the procedure done in 1992. Women most likely to undergo breast reduction range from age 19 to age 50. Though the procedure is usually performed on women whose breasts have fully developed, occasionally teenage girls undergo breast reduction surgery if their breasts are causing severe physical discomfort. Many women prefer to wait to have breast reduction surgery until after they have had children since the breasts tend to shrink after pregnancy and nursing. Breast reduction surgery may also interfere with a woman’s ability to breast-feed.

Of all types of plastic surgery, women who have breast reduction are usually the most satisfied with the outcome.

    Initial Surgical Consultation

    In most cases, women who are considering breast reduction surgery will set up an initial consultation with a plastic surgeon. All plastic surgeons should be certified by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). The surgeon will review the breast concerns, including any history of previous breast surgeries such as lumpectomy (removal of a breast lump). He or she will also make measurements to determine the amount of breast tissue to remove to make the breasts more proportionate with the rest of the body. Many women who have overly large breasts want to have as much breast tissue removed as possible, but surgeons prefer not to over-remove tissue and will usually suggest a moderate removal.

    Issues discussed in the initial consultation may include:

    • Preparing for surgery
    • Cost of surgery (many insurance providers will cover the cost of breast reduction surgery because they do not consider the procedure to be cosmetic. However, women will usually have to send pictures of their breasts and recommendations from the plastic surgeon to obtain authorization. Some insurance companies require a certain amount of breast tissue be removed).
    • Type of facility where the operation will be performed
    • Type of anesthesia
    • The operation itself
    • Recovery
    • Possible side effects and complications

    As with any surgery, women considering breast reduction should tell their plastic surgeons about any medications, vitamins, or other drugs they may be taking. The plastic surgeon must be certain that no medical problems exist that may interfere with the surgery. Typically, a baseline mammogram is taken before the operation. Breast reduction surgery does not usually interfere significantly with mammography after the surgery (it typically does not obscure large abnormalities).