Breast reduction surgery tends to be the most gratifying type of surgery a plastic surgeon performs, professionally and emotionally. It also consistently ranks high in patient satisfaction studies.
There’s an immediate sense of liberation for women who’ve felt like they’ve been held hostage by the size of their breasts. It’s limited their lives and kept them from doing a lot of the activities many other women enjoy.
Women who undergo breast reduction surgery are often seeking relief from physical symptoms caused by the excessive weight of large breasts, such as shoulder, neck, and back pain. They can also have permanent marks on their shoulders caused by their bra straps grinding into their skin day after day.
Those who’ve experienced dramatic weight loss are also candidates for the surgery. Having lost the volume in their chest, their breasts may be stretched out and sagging, which can result in chafing and rashes underneath.
So, what exactly does breast reduction surgery entail?
It’s an outpatient procedure that’s performed under general anesthesia, and it typically takes between three to five hours, depending on the breast size. During the surgery, excess breast tissue is removed to achieve the patient’s desired breast size. For many women, that’s between a C and a D cup.
Immediately following the surgery, the patient is dressed in a snug surgical bra to help support the breasts and take some of the weight off the incisions. It’s not essential to the healing process, but most women feel more comfortable with the extra support from the bra for the first two weeks after the surgery. After that point, the surgeon will recommend wearing a sports bra for another two to four weeks.
The surgeon may also recommend lifting the breast into a normal shape during the course of the surgery, since much of the breast tissue has been removed. Often, for patients with large breasts, the nipples point downward, or they’re below the breast fold. Which means the surgeon isn’t only removing excess skin and breast tissue, they’re also repositioning the nipples higher on the breast mount.
Breast reduction is considered a two-for-one surgery because it addresses both functional and aesthetic concerns.
Keep in mind, with all breast surgeries, slight asymmetry is generally accepted as the rule. While your breasts may look similar, they’re not exactly alike. After surgery, it’s common to sit there and stare, and that’s when subtle asymmetries can become apparent. But almost everyone naturally has some asymmetry.
And, what’s the recovery like?
Even with the compression bra, the swelling will take about four to six weeks to go down, and it’ll take three months for the final results to fully manifest. That said, while patients will need to avoid strenuous activity, including exercise, for a couple of months, most can get back to their normal life within a few days to a week or two.
And, perhaps most importantly, relief from the pain associated with the excess weight is almost immediate, even with the expected post-operative soreness.
Unlike most plastic surgery, breast reduction surgery, in whole or in part, is eligible for insurance coverage as long as certain criteria is met, like the presence of back or neck pain, shoulder-strap grooving, and the amount of breast tissue that’s going to be removed needs to be significant. So, seek out a board-certified plastic surgeon you’re not only comfortable with but who’s also willing to advocate on your behalf with your insurance provider.