Top of the page
Breast reduction surgery (reduction mammoplasty) removes some of the tissue and skin from the breasts to reshape and reduce the size of the breasts. It can also make the area of dark skin surrounding the nipple (areola) smaller.
To remove tissue and skin from the breast, the surgeon first makes one or more cuts in the breast. After the excess tissue and skin have been removed, the skin is closed with stitches. Sometimes the nipple and areola have to be removed and repositioned.
Sometimes liposuction is used along with surgery. If most of the breast is fatty tissue and if excess skin isn't a problem, liposuction alone may be enough for breast reduction.
Breast reduction surgery is done in a hospital or surgical centre, typically with general anesthesia. The surgery usually takes 3 to 5 hours. An overnight stay is not usually required. For smaller reductions, the surgery may be done with local anesthesia.
Breast lift (mastopexy) is similar to a breast reduction, except that in some cases only skin is removed. A breast lift can raise sagging or drooping breasts, which is a common problem with large, heavy breasts, and can elevate the nipple and areola.
Immediately after surgery, gauze is placed over the incisions, and the breasts are wrapped in an elastic bandage or supported with a special surgical bra. In some cases, there may be a small tube in each breast to help drain blood and fluid for the first couple of days. Stitches may be removed in 1 to 2 weeks.
Most women have some breast pain for the first few days after surgery and then milder discomfort for a week or longer. Medicine can help relieve the pain. Swelling and bruising may last for several weeks. Wearing a surgical bra 24 hours a day can help reduce swelling and support the breasts while they heal.
You will likely resume your normal work and social activities within a couple of weeks, unless those activities involve heavy lifting or strenuous exercise. You may need to avoid more vigorous exercise and activities for 3 to 4 weeks or more. It's important to wear a bra that supports the breasts well, such as a sports or athletic bra.
You will have visible scars on your breasts after breast reduction surgery. These are almost always in areas that can be covered by a bra or swimsuit. Scars may fade over time, but they will not disappear.
Breast reduction surgery is done to change the size, weight, firmness, and shape of the breasts. You may decide to have breast reduction surgery to:
Women who have breast reduction surgery are often extremely satisfied. It can make the breasts smaller, firmer, lighter, and more evenly proportioned. It usually relieves the physical discomfort and pain caused by large breasts.
The results of breast reduction surgery are considered permanent. But the breasts may become larger or their shape may change as a result of pregnancy, weight gain, or weight loss.
The most common risks of breast reduction surgery include:
Less commonly, damage to the breast's blood supply may occur during surgery. This may delay the skin's healing process. Loss of part or all of the nipple and areola can also occur, but this is not common.
Other risks of surgery include:
These risks can be serious or even life-threatening, but they rarely occur.
Keep in mind that breast reduction may make breastfeeding difficult or impossible in the future. Some women may still be able to breastfeed after having reduction surgery.
If you are thinking about having a breast reduction, ask your doctor if your provincial health plan covers the costs. Your provincial health plan may cover some or all of the costs of breast reduction surgery if surgery is being done to relieve back pain, skin problems, or other medical problems caused by large or heavy breasts. Surgery being done solely to change the appearance of the breasts is typically not covered, because it is not considered a medically necessary procedure when done for this reason.
Current as of: July 2, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Donald Sproule MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Keith A. Denkler MD - Plastic Surgery
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.