Procedure description: Breast reduction, also called reduction mammaplasty, is most often done in the hospital or surgicenter, under general anesthetic. The most commonly made incision encircles the areola (darkened area around the nipple) and extends downward and around the underside of the breast. This produces the least conspicuous scar. The excess tissue, fat, and skin are removed, and the nipple and areola are repositioned. In certain cases, liposuction is used to remove extra fat from the armpit area. In most cases, the nipples remain attached to their blood vessels and nerves. However, if the breasts are very large or pendulous, the nipples and areolas may have to be completely removed and grafted into a higher position as a skin graft. (This ultimately results in loss of function of the nipple including; sensation, erection and the ability to breast feed).
Length of Procedure: Breast reduction surgery generally takes about 1 to 3 hours per breast, depending on extent of the repair and the techniques being used.
Recovery: Your breasts will be wrapped with gauze bandage, plus a tighter bandage for protection and support. You also may have small drainage tubes coming out of the incisions to help drain some of the excess fluid. Your bandages will be removed after a day or two, and you will continue wearing a surgical bra, around the clock, for several weeks, until the swelling and bruising subside. The stitches will be removed in 1 to 3 weeks.
Light activities can be resumed within a few days; although, your chest will be sore. You may also be instructed to avoid sex for a week or more, since sexual arousal can cause your incisions to swell. Routine physical activity and exercising (especially lifting, pulling and pushing motions) should be avoided for at least 6 weeks.
Risks: The most common complications associated with this procedure include infection, bleeding, and scarring. Other, less common complications include skin death; hematoma (collection of blood), seroma (fluid buildup). In this surgery, serious complications are quite rare, but there is a chance for significant blood loss due to the magnitude of the surgery. In addition, small areas of infection or delayed healing in the incisions is not uncommon. There is also a possibility of developing small sores around the nipples, which can be treated with antibiotic creams. Some patients may experience a permanent loss of feeling in their nipples or breasts.
Results: Smaller breast size should be achieved, and with that, less neck, back and shoulder pain. The breasts will remain smaller than they would have been if surgery had not been performed. Unfortunately, gravity continues to work, and the breasts will sag again with time. Your surgeon will make the incisions as inconspicuous as possible, but the scarring from this surgery is fairly extensive and permanent. These scars are long, and they remain pink or brown for several years.
Estimated Cost: Because large breasts can be hereditary, the procedure is quite often covered by insurance, if certain criteria are met. These criteria would have to be discussed with your doctor before submitting them to your health insurance carrier. The average breast reduction cost varies from $5,000 to $7,000. Fees include anesthesia, which ranges from $1,000 to $1,500, and the facility fee (or hospital fee), which ranges from $500 to $2,000. The remaining cost will be the surgeon's fee.