Breast reduction (mammoplasty)

Breast reduction (mammoplasty surgery) is a surgical procedure which involves removing excess breast tissue and skin to reduce the size of the breast. This surgery can help relieve the discomfort caused by large breasts, such as back and neck pain, grooves on the shoulders from bra straps and rashes under the breasts

Breast reduction is carried out under a general anaesthetic and usually requires a two-night stay in hospital.

There are various techniques that surgeons can use to perform this operation. Your surgeon will advise which is the most appropriate in your case.

Excess breast tissue and skin is removed through incisions made in the lower part of the breasts and the nipples are repositioned. The skin is reshaped and once the surgery is complete, the incisions are closed with dissolving sutures.

Following the procedure, you will be taken from the operating theatre to the recovery suite where you will be looked after until you are fully awake. After this, you will return to your room, where nursing staff will check your dressings and monitor your pulse and blood pressure at regular intervals.

The anaesthetist will prescribe painkillers and you should take these regularly for the first week or so. Pain can slow down your recovery, so it is important to discuss any discomfort with the nursing staff.

You may have drainage tubes in your breasts - these have bottles attached to them and are there to drain away any excess fluid. The drains are removed before you are discharged home.

There may be a drip in one of your arms - this is to keep you well hydrated. This will be removed when you are able to drink a satisfactory amount.

You will have wound dressings and a supportive sports-style bra (non-underwired) in place.

After a breast reduction, you are likely to have some pain/discomfort, swelling and bruising in your breasts. These are temporary and should subside after the first few weeks during your breast reduction recovery. It may take several months for the shape of your breasts to settle.

Your surgeon will advise you as to how long you are required to wear your supportive bra and whether it is to be worn day and night. You must avoid wearing an underwired bra until you are informed otherwise.

You will receive a post-operative telephone call from the specialist nurse one to two days after your discharge home to ascertain your progress and well-being. You will also receive a follow-up appointment at which your surgeon will assess your progress and give advice on when you can resume your normal activities.

You must avoid strenuous exercise, heavy lifting, swimming and vacuuming for four to six weeks after surgery. You should only resume driving when you are confident that you can safely perform an emergency stop without experiencing discomfort.

The length of time you will need to take off work will depend on your type of employment but is usually a minimum of two weeks.

Breast reduction is a commonly performed and generally safe procedure. However, all surgery carries an element of risk.

The possible complications of any surgery can include an unexpected reaction to a general anaesthetic, excessive bleeding, infection and developing a blood clot (usually in a vein in the lower leg, known as a deep vein thrombosis).

You will be left with visible scars following your surgery. Initially, they will be red and slightly raised, but they should gradually soften and fade over the following months. Some patients experience a loss of nipple sensation after they have been repositioned. Numbness may also extend over other parts of the breasts. In some cases, it is not possible to breastfeed following surgery. Rarely, alterations in the blood supply may result in the loss of all or part of the nipple.

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