Breast reduction is a surgical procedure performed to decrease the size of the breasts.
Women with very large breasts (macromastia, or mammary hyperplasia) seek breast reduction for relief of back, shoulder, and neck pain. They may also feel uncomfortable about their breast size and have difficulty finding clothing that will fit properly. Additionally, breast reduction may be needed after reconstructive surgery following the surgical removal of cancerous breast tissue (mastectomy), to make the breasts more symmetric.
Men who have enlarged breasts (gynecomastia) may also be candidates for breast reduction surgery. However, excessive alcohol intake, marijuana use, or using anabolic steroids may cause gynecomastia. Surgery is not recommended for men who continue to use these products.
Breast reduction is also called reduction mammoplasty. It is most often performed in a hospital, under general anesthetic. However, studies have suggested that an outpatient procedure, using local anesthetic and mild sedation, may be appropriate for some persons. The operation requires approximately two to four hours. 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. Excess tissue, fat, and skin are removed, and the nipple and areola are repositioned. In certain cases, liposuction (fat suctioning) is used to remove extra fat from the armpit area. A hospital stay of up to three days may be needed for recovery.
Breast reduction surgery for males with gynecomastia is similar to that described for females.
Consultation between surgeon and patient is important to ensure that there is understanding and agreement with the expected final results of the procedure. Measurements and photographs may be taken. Many doctors also recommend a mammogram before the operation to ensure that there is no cancer.
After the surgery, an elastic bandage or special supportive bra is placed over gauze bandages and drainage tubes. The bandages and tubes are removed in a day or two. The bra is worn around the clock for several weeks. Stitches are removed one to three weeks after the operation. Normal activities, including sexual relations, may be restricted for several weeks. Scars will typically remain red and perhaps raised for up to several months, but will gradually fade and become less noticeable. It may take up to a year before the breasts achieve their final position and size.
Breast reduction surgery is not recommended for women whose breasts are not fully developed or who plan to breastfeed.
Risks common to any operation include bleeding, infection, anesthesia reactions, or unexpected scarring. Breast reduction may result in decreased feeling in the breasts or nipples and/or impaired ability to breastfeed. When healing is complete, the breasts may be slightly uneven, or the nipples may be asymmetric. However, this is consistent with normal breast tissue.