Cosmetic Surgery Tips

Breast Reduction Risks And Side Effects

If you’ve been considering a breast reduction, you’re probably aware of the procedure’s risks and side effects. We want to make sure you know everything there is to know about these risks, so that you can make an informed decision about whether a breast reduction is right for you. This exposition also discusses breast reduction drugs and breast reduction risk of death.

Breast reduction surgery is designed to reduce the size of your breasts while also improving their shape and symmetry. It involves removing excess skin and fat from the chest area, reshaping the breast tissue, and repositioning the nipple.

While this procedure can be very beneficial for some women, it’s important to understand that it’s not right for everyone. In fact, even if your doctor gives the go-ahead, you might not be able to have breast reduction surgery because of other medical conditions or medications that might impair your body’s ability to recover from surgery (see below).

Long-Term Side Effects of Breast Reduction Surgery

The decision to have breast reduction surgery is extremely personal. You will have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks of breast reduction surgery and potential complications are acceptable.

Your plastic surgeon and/or plastic surgery staff will explain in detail the risks associated with surgery. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure you will undergo and any risks or potential complications.

Possible breast reduction surgery risks include:

  • Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, blood products, topical preparations or injectable agents
  • Anesthesia risks
  • Bleeding (hematoma)
  • Blood clots
  • Breast asymmetry
  • Breast contour and shape irregularities
  • Changes in nipple or breast sensation, which may be temporary or permanent
  • Damage to deeper structures – such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles and lungs – can occur and may be temporary or permanent
  • Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
  • Excessive firmness of the breast
  • Fatty tissue deep in the skin could die (fat necrosis)
  • Fluid accumulation
  • Infection
  • Pain, which may persist
  • Poor wound healing
  • Possibility of revisional surgery
  • Potential inability to breastfeed
  • Potential loss of skin/tissue of breast where incisions meet each other
  • Potential, partial or total loss of nipple and areola
  • Skin discoloration, permanent pigmentation changes, swelling and bruising
  • Unfavorable scarring

You should know that:

  • Breast reduction surgery can interfere with certain diagnostic procedures
  • Breast and nipple piercing can cause an infection
  • Your ability to breastfeed following reduction mammaplasty may be limited; talk to your doctor if you are planning to nurse a baby
  • The breast reduction procedure can be performed at any age, but is best done when your breasts are fully developed
  • Changes in the breasts during pregnancy can alter the outcomes of previous breast reduction surgery, as can significant weight fluctuations

The practice of medicine and surgery is not an exact science. Although good results are expected, there is no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single breast reduction procedure and another surgery may be necessary.

Where will my surgery be performed?

Breast reduction procedures may be performed in your plastic surgeon’s accredited office-based surgical facility, an ambulatory surgical facility or a hospital. Your plastic surgeon and the assisting staff will fully attend to your comfort and safety.

When you go home

If you experience shortness of breath, chest pains or unusual heartbeats, seek medical attention immediately. Should any of these breast reduction complications occur, you may require hospitalization and additional treatment.

The practice of medicine and surgery is not an exact science. Although good results are expected, there is no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single surgical procedure and another surgery may be necessary.

Be careful

Following your physician’s instructions is key to the success of your surgery. It is important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, abrasion or motion during the time of healing. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself and minimize breast reduction surgery risks.

Be sure to ask questions: It’s very important to address all your questions directly with your plastic surgeon. It is natural to feel some anxiety, whether excitement for the anticipated outcome or preoperative stress. Discuss these feelings with your plastic surgeon.

Breast Reduction

What is a breast reduction?

A breast reduction is the surgical reshaping of the breast to make it smaller. Breast reduction, also called reduction mammoplasty, involves removing excess fat, glandular tissue, and skin to reduce breast size. Some people seek breast reduction for cosmetic or aesthetic reasons. Your doctor may also recommend it if large breasts are causing discomfort, back problems, or other health problems.

Breast reduction surgery is a common but major surgery with significant risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment. Consider getting a second opinion about all your choices before having breast reduction surgery.

Types of breast reduction surgery

The types of breast reduction procedures include:

  • Free nipple graft (FNG) involves removing your nipple and grafting it in a new location on your breast. Your surgeon removes breast tissue while your nipple is off, and then grafts your nipple back into place.
  • Liposuction involves injection and suction of fatty tissue and usually leaves little or no scarring.
  • Pedicle method involves making a circular incision around your areola (the dark area that surrounds your nipple) to remove breast tissue.
  • Anchor incision is an extension of the pedicle method with an incision that runs vertically down from the areola to the bottom of your breast and into a semi-circle around the bottom of your breast. This makes an anchor-like incision.
  • LeJour incision is an extension of the pedicle method with an incision that runs vertically down from the areola to the bottom of your breast and stops at your chest wall.
  • Stevens laser bra uses a laser and the extra skin that would normally be discarded to create a permanent internal support structure for your breasts.

Other procedures that may be performed 

Your surgeon may perform other procedures in addition to breast reduction surgery. The most common combination is a breast reduction with a breast lift (mastopexy). A breast lift is a procedure to boost sagging or loose breasts.

Why is a breast reduction performed?

Your doctor may recommend breast reduction surgery if you want smaller breasts for cosmetic reasons. Your doctor may also recommend it if large breasts are causing discomfort or medical problems.

Not everyone is a good candidate for breast reduction surgery. A good surgical candidate is physically healthy, does not smoke, has fully developed breasts, and has realistic expectations of improvement, not perfection. Ask your doctor about all of your treatment options and consider getting a second opinion before deciding on breast reduction surgery.  

Your doctor may recommend breast reduction surgery if you are a good surgical candidate and:

  • One breast varies in size or shape from the other one.
  • One or both breasts did not develop normally.
  • You are self-conscious about your breasts or feel that your breasts are too large or are disproportionate to your body size.
  • Your breasts interfere with your ability to participate in sports or other physical activities.
  • Your breasts cause sleep difficulties.
  • You have poor posture or numbness and tingling in your arms due to the weight of your breasts.
  • You have headaches or back, neck or shoulder pain due to weight of your breasts.
  • You have permanent grooves in your shoulders from your bra strap holding the weight of your breasts.
  • You have skin irritation, rashes, sores, or infections under the crease of your breast.
  • Your breasts have stretched skin, stretched areolas, or nipples that hang below your breast crease.
  • You are a male with gynecomastia (breast enlargement in males).

Who performs a breast reduction?

plastic surgeon or a cosmetic surgeon performs breast reduction. A plastic surgeon is a specialist in aesthetic and reconstructive surgery. A cosmetic surgeon focuses on aesthetic surgery—most procedures are elective and not medical necessary. A cosmetic surgeon performs some of the same surgeries as a plastic surgeon, including breast augmentation, but the surgeons’ education and training are different.

How is a breast reduction performed?

Your breast reduction will be performed in a hospital or outpatient surgery setting. Your surgeon will use one of the following approaches:

  • Minimally invasive surgery involves inserting special instruments and an endoscope through small incisions in your underarm or around the base of your breasts. An endoscope is a thin, lighted instrument with a small camera. The camera sends pictures of the inside of your body to a video screen viewed by your surgeon while performing surgery. Minimally invasive surgery generally involves a faster recovery and less pain than open surgery. This is because it causes less trauma to tissues and organs. Your surgeon will make a small incision(s) instead of a larger one used in open surgery. Surgical tools are threaded around muscles and tissues instead of cutting through or displacing them as in open surgery.
  • Open surgery involves making a large incision around your areola and under your breast. Open surgery incision allows your surgeon to directly view and access the surgical area. Open surgery generally involves a longer recovery and more pain than minimally invasive surgery. Open surgery requires a larger incision and more cutting and displacement of muscle and other tissues than minimally invasive surgery. Despite this, open surgery may be a safer or more effective method for certain patients.

Your surgeon will advise you on which type of surgery is best for you and how long you need to stay in the hospital or surgical center based on your diagnosis, age, medical history, general health, and possibly your personal preference. Learn about the different breast reduction procedures and ask why your surgeon will use a particular type for you.
Types of anesthesia that may be used

Your surgeon will perform breast reduction surgery using either general anesthesia or regional anesthesia, depending on the specific procedure.

  • General anesthesia is a combination of intravenous (IV) medications and gases that put you in a deep sleep. You are unaware of the surgery and do not feel any pain. You may also receive a peripheral nerve block infusion in addition to general anesthesia. A peripheral nerve block infusion is an injection or continuous drip of liquid anesthetic. The anesthetic flows through a tiny tube inserted near your surgical site to control pain during and after surgery.
  • Regional anesthesia is also known as a nerve block. It involves injecting an anesthetic around certain nerves to numb a large area of the body. You will likely have sedation with regional anesthesia to keep you relaxed and comfortable.

What to expect the day of your breast reduction

The day of your surgery, you can generally expect to:

  • Talk with a preoperative nurse. The nurse will perform an exam and ensure that all needed tests are in order. The nurse can also answer questions and will make sure you understand and sign the surgical consent form.
  • Remove all clothing and jewelry and dress in a hospital gown. It is a good idea to leave all jewelry and valuables at home or with a family member. Your care team will give you blankets for modesty and warmth.
  • Talk with the surgeon, anesthesiologist, or nurse anesthetist about your medical history and the type of anesthesia you will have.
  • A surgical team member will start an IV.
  • The surgeon, anesthesiologist, or nurse anesthetist will start your anesthesia.
  • A tube may be placed in your windpipe to protect and control breathing during general anesthesia. You will not feel or remember this or the surgery as they happen.
  • The surgical team will monitor your vital signs and other critical body functions. This occurs throughout the procedure and your recovery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable.

Breast Lift (Mastopexy) - Dr Cynthia Goodman

Common Problems After Breast Reduction Surgery

What are the risks and potential complications of a breast reduction?  

As with all surgeries, a breast reduction involves risks and possible complications. Complications may become serious and life threatening in some cases. Complications can develop during surgery or recovery.

General risks of surgery 

The general risks of surgery include: 

  • Anesthesia reaction, such as an allergic reaction and problems with breathing
  • Bleeding, which can lead to shock
  • Blood clot
  • Infection

Potential complications of a breast reduction

Complications of a breast reduction include:

  • Change in color of nipples and areola, which may be permanent
  • Change or loss of nipple and areola sensation, which may be permanent
  • Differences in breast sizes
  • Difficulty with breastfeeding or inability to breast feed
  • Large scars that may remain visible
  • Loss of nipples and areola
  • Uneven position of nipples or contour of your breasts

Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce the risk of some complications by following the treatment plan and:

  • Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations before surgery and during recovery
  • Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as bleeding, fever, increase in pain, or wound redness, swelling or drainage
  • Informing your doctor or radiologist if you are nursing or if there is any possibility of pregnancy. It is also important to tell your doctor if you plan on becoming pregnant, breastfeeding, or losing weight in the future.
  • Taking your medications exactly as directed
  • Telling all members of your care team if you have any allergies 
  • Wearing a post-surgical support bra as directed by your healthcare provider

How do I prepare for my breast reduction?

You are an important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before surgery can improve your comfort and outcome.

You can prepare for breast reduction surgery by:

  • Answering all questions about your medical history and medications. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
  • Getting preoperative testing as directed. Testing varies depending on your age, health, and specific procedure. Preoperative testing may include a breast exam, mammograms, chest X-rays, blood tests, and other tests as needed.
  • Losing excess weight before the surgery through a healthy diet and exercise plan
  • Not eating or drinking before surgery as directed. Your surgery may be cancelled if you eat or drink too close to the start of surgery because you can choke on stomach contents during anesthesia.
  • Stopping smoking as soon as possible. Even quitting for just a few days can be beneficial and help the healing process.
  • Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. This may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and blood thinners.

Questions to ask your doctor

Facing surgery can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment.  Contact your doctor with concerns and questions before surgery and between appointments.

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions your appointments. Questions can include:

  • Am I a good candidate for breast reduction surgery? Are there any other options for me?
  • Which type of breast reduction surgery procedure will I need?
  • What results can I expect?
  • What options do I have if I am not satisfied with the results?
  • What other breast-related or revision surgery should I expect to have over my lifetime?
  • How long will the surgery take? When can I go home?
  • What restrictions will I have after the surgery? When can I return to work and other activities?
  • What kind of assistance will I need at home?
  • How do I take my medications? 
  • How will you treat my pain?
  • When should I follow up with you?
  • How should I contact you? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.

What can I expect after my breast reduction?

Knowing what to expect can help make your road to recovery after breast reduction surgery as smooth as possible.

How long will it take to recover?

 You will stay in the recovery room after surgery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable. You may have tubes attached to your breasts to drain fluids. Your surgeon will usually remove them within three days. You may have a sore throat if a tube was placed in your windpipe during surgery. This is usually temporary, but tell your care team if you are uncomfortable.

You may go home on the same day if you are recovering well. In other cases, a hospital stay of one day is required. 

Recovery after surgery is a gradual process. Recovery time varies depending on the procedure, type of anesthesia, your general health, age, and other factors. You may need to wear a surgical support bra for several weeks after your surgery. Full recovery takes a couple of weeks to a month.

Will I feel pain?

Pain control is important for healing and a smooth recovery. There will be discomfort after your surgery. Your doctor will treat your pain so you are comfortable and can get the rest you need. Call your doctor if your pain gets worse or changes in any way because it may be a sign of a complication.

When should I call my doctor?

It is important to keep your follow-up appointments after breast reduction surgery. Contact your doctor for questions and concerns between appointments. Call your doctor right away or seek immediate medical care if you have:

  • Bleeding
  • Breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, or wheezing
  • Change in alertness, such as passing out, dizziness, unresponsiveness, or confusion
  • Chest pain, palpitations, or uneven heart beats
  • Fever. A low-grade fever (lower than 101 degrees Fahrenheit) is common for a couple of days after surgery and not necessarily a sign of a surgical infection. You should follow your doctor’s specific instructions about when to call for a fever.
  • Inability to urinate or have a bowel movement
  • Pain that is not controlled by your pain medication
  • Sudden change in shape or firmness of your breast or breasts
  • Unexpected drainage, pus, redness or swelling of your incision

How might abreast reduction affect my everyday life?

Breast reduction surgery can have dramatic effects on your physical well-being if the weight of your breasts caused problems or interfered with your life. You should have less pain, improved sleep, and better comfort when participating in physical activities.

Breast reduction surgery may also improve your satisfaction with your appearance and boost your self-confidence. Surgeons caution that it is important to be realistic about how much breast reduction may improve your self-image. 

Be aware of what cosmetic breast reduction surgery can and cannot do for your overall appearance. Time, gravity, weight changes, and aging will eventually affect the size and shape of your breasts.

It is also important to tell all your healthcare providers about your breast reduction surgery. The type of procedure you had can affect future breast surgeries or revisions. Breast reduction can also complicate breastfeeding. 

Breast Reduction Risk Of Death

The likelihood of dying is exceedingly odd to the point of being rare, around the same as the likelihood of dying in a car accident, unless you have major medical concerns and health conditions ongoing unrelated to your breasts. When carried out by a board-certified plastic surgeon, breast reduction is a very safe procedure.

Breast Reduction Drugs

The most pervasive and possibly one of the most harmful myths regarding breast reduction involves breast reduction pills or lotions. Given how simple it is to purchase these ‘technologies’ for so-called breast reduction, it is clear why some people could be seduced by the promise of an economical, anonymous, and post-operative alternative to surgery.

The reality, though, is less enticing. In addition to not producing the expected outcomes, breast reduction pills and lotions may possibly be dangerous to your health.

About 60% of drugs purchased online in 2010 were determined to be subpar or fake, according to a survey by the European Medicines Agency. In fact, a large number of websites that advertise these simple, quick ways to alter your physique are blatant frauds. They exist to take advantage of people’s demand for privacy when it comes to issues involving their bodies and health.

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