Breast reduction mammaplasty, more commonly known simply as breast reduction surgery, is a procedure which reduces the size of large breasts to make the person healthier, as well as more comfortable, both physically and psychologically. Breast reduction surgery is most commonly done out of health concerns: enlarged, heavy breasts that sag can result in chronic back, neck and shoulder pain, cause bad posture, poor blood circulation and are known to also cause breathing difficulty. Here we'll take a look at breast reduction surgery and everything you need to know if you are considering this procedure.

Why Patients Opt for Breast Reduction Surgery

Although the primary reason for the surgery is the pain caused by an oversized bust, many women find it causes additional difficulty in carrying out everyday activities, especially when it comes to exercising, which once again, in turn, causes health and fitness issues. Some women consider breast reduction simply out of cosmetic reasons: large breasts dominate a woman’s appearance, and many women feel uncomfortable with the attention they attract. Not only that, overly busty women have a hard time finding brassieres, tops and clothing that fits. Large breasts also tend to make women look heavier than they actually are, which is another reason many women are unhappy with their oversized busts.

Some women also opt to have this type of surgery after giving birth, as part of a "Mommy Makeover." Most often, however, the reason why a person decides on having the surgery is a mixture of all of the above.

Breast reduction surgery is similar, but not the same, as a breast lift (the technical term being mastopexy). Although the procedure itself is quite similar from the technical side of things, the breast lift is a purely cosmetic operation, which changes the shape and position of breasts that have become saggy due to weight and size.

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It’s also important to note that women aren’t the only ones opting for breast reduction surgery. The surgery is performed on men as well, particularly those suffering from a condition called gynecomastia. Gynecomastia is popularly referred to as “man boobs”, and is a condition in which men grow enlarged breast tissue, making their breasts resemble female breasts. This occurs as a result of shifts in hormone levels, which result in an increase of estrogen.

What to Expect from the Procedure

Breast reduction surgery normally lasts around two hours, but depending on the breast size, it can last up to five, and is performed under general anesthesia, which means the patient will be unconscious, or “put to sleep.” The procedure itself entails the removal of extra skin, tissue and fat out of the breasts. The cut will be made around the nipple and downwards on the breast. Once the intended mass has been removed, the nipple will be repositioned according to the new size of the breasts, in order to preserve a natural look. Some patients need to have draining tubes after the surgery – long, thin tubes connected to the incisions on the one end and a suction bulb on the other, which drain out unwanted fluid to prevent potentially dangerous fluid buildup. The draining tubes stay attached to the incision for approximately one week. This varies patient to patient and is decided based on the amount of fluid being drained day-to-day.

What to Do Before Breast Reduction Surgery

As with any other surgery, it’s very important to form an honest relationship with your doctor. Before any procedure, your doctor will take your medical history, and it’s of the utmost importance to be completely honest, not only about your past diseases and the medical history of your family, but about your personal habits as well.

This can include the discussion of some aspects of life which many people are uncomfortable talking about, such as alcohol consumption, prescribed or over-the-counter medication, as well as smoking and exercising habits, and sexual activity. Smokers will be asked to stop smoking for a certain period before and after the surgery, and this commitment should be taken seriously! The desire to have children in the future should also be discussed, due to future breastfeeding.

The doctor is on your side, and the information he or she is asking that you share is for your own benefit, as it will enable the doctor to prepare you for the procedure, as well as to carry it out in the safest way possible, according to your physical condition and needs.

Before the surgery, a person should think about the care they will need afterward. Make sure to take time off and prepare for at least one or two weeks of recovery time. You will be sore and will need rest, will experience breast pain and fatigue, and won’t be as mobile as usual while the wounds are healing. Having assistance from available friends or family is recommended, as simple activities that require movement, such as cooking, cleaning or doing the shopping, will prove to be quite challenging, especially in the first couple of days after leaving the hospital.

With purely cosmetic surgery, it is, of course, important to be honest with oneself, as well as with others, about the reasons to have the surgery in the first place. Always keep in mind that a physical change doesn’t equal a mental or spiritual change, and that the change of appearance will not automatically bring a change in lifestyle or relationships. It can, however, make you more comfortable in your own skin and raise confidence levels, as well as better your self-image. Make sure to undergo surgery for the right reasons, and with realistic expectations.

What to Expect After the Surgery

As was mentioned earlier, the recovery time after breast reduction surgery varies from person to person, but normally takes one to two weeks. During this period, expect to make several visits to the doctor. The breasts will be wrapped up in gauze, which will need changing. The incision made during the procedure will be sutured to enable the tissue to heal, and an appointment will be made to have the stitches taken out. The stitches themselves are known to cause mild discomfort, mostly itching. The length of time to have the stitches varies from patient to patient, but in most cases, the stitches are painlessly removed within the first week after surgery.

During the recovery period, expect to experience breast pain, soreness, fatigue and nausea, as well as not being able to move about as freely. There will also be bruising and swelling. Any lifting should be strictly avoided, as the strain can damage the wounds and cause additional scarring. Patients will be prescribed painkillers to help deal with the pain and discomfort during the first days of recovery. Sports and exercise should be avoided for at least a month after the surgery.

The Aftermath of Breast Reduction Surgery

After a complete recovery, with the stitches out and the bruising and swelling in the past, the results will finally become noticeable, and the quality of life will definitely be heightened. The pain will slowly fade into the past as the spine adjusts to the new constitution, and the muscles start to relax with the absence of the weight they are used to carrying. Patients will be able to start new, and more demanding fitness regimes - but only after they are fully healed and their doctor says it's OK.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to the surgery as well - the scarring. This is something patients are most concerned about, but unfortunately, there is little that can be said on this subject with certainty. Scarring is very individual with all surgery, and this one is no exception. The best clue to what the scars will look like are the scars you might have from earlier surgery or wounds. Skin sensitivity varies from person to person, and while some people heal very quickly and have scars that fade away over shorter periods of time, some people have sensitive skin that scars easily, and their scars are more stubborn and stick around for quite a while, often even forever.

One thing is certain, though – there will be scars, and they will need care. The scars should be treated with ointments, and special care should be taken with movement and lifting so as to not put any additional pressure on them or irritate the skin. It is important, however, to be mentally prepared to have permanent scarring.