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Breast Reduction Surgery: What to Expect on Your Road to Recovery

If you’ve been contemplating the decision to downsize your breasts, you most likely have questions.  Here’s a quick guide to what to expect following breast reduction surgery.

Like breast augmentation surgery, breast revision surgery, breast reconstruction following breast cancer, or corrective tuberous breast surgery, breast reduction surgery is classified as major, invasive cosmetic surgery and should be treated with the utmost care.  Here are some quick and easy tips to follow post-op, including a rundown of the risks associated with breast reduction surgery.  

What is Breast Reduction Surgery?
Breast reduction surgery is the procedure of surgically removing the excess fat, tissue, and skin from the breasts.  Women seek breast reduction surgery in the hopes of freeing themselves from chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain due to disproportionately large breasts, as well as correcting any asymmetry.  Breast reduction surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia in an outpatient facility and takes anywhere between 2 and 5 hours to complete.  Depending on the size of your breasts and your reduction goals, one of three types of breast reduction techniques will be performed:

  • Liposuction

Usually performed on women seeking a minimal reduction, this procedure consists of liposuction with small, thin tubes connected to a vacuum that suctions fat and fluid from the breasts.  

  • Vertical “lollipop”

This method is recommended for women seeking moderate breast tissue removal and who possess visible sagging.

  • Inverted -T

Also referred to as the “anchor” technique, this level of breast reduction surgery addresses extremely large, burdensome breasts with maximum sagging and asymmetry.  

Regardless of which type of breast reduction surgery you undergo, you can expect drainage tubes, sutures along the incision sites, compression garments, and special gauze wraps.  You may also be required to wear a surgical bra for several weeks.  

Breast Reduction Surgery Recovery:  What to Expect
Recovery following breast reduction surgery can take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks.  So, plan accordingly.  Here are some helpful to tips to facilitate an easy, speedy recovery following your surgery.  You should also consult with your surgeon on the next steps, follow-up appointments, and other special tips he or she may recommend.  

  • Expect to take at least one week – or more – off from work or school.
  • Refrain from strenuous physical activity/exercise for 4-6 weeks following surgery.
  • Avoid heavy lifting for 4-6 weeks following surgery.  Plan for childcare and help around the house during this crucial recovery period.  You don’t want to jeopardize the wound healing process.
  • You’ll feel fatigued and sore for some time.  Oral painkillers can be prescribed by your doctor if desired.
  • Some patients have reported a bout of depression or poor body image following surgery.  If you begin to feel the breast reduction blues post-op, talk to your doctor.  
  • Follow-up with your appointment for suture, bandage, and drain removal.
  • Be sure to finish your antibiotic prescription to avoid the possibility of infection.
  • Guzzle 8-10 glasses of hydrating H2O daily to flush toxins, including the elimination of residual anesthesia from the body.
  • Get plenty of restorative rest and stock up on those much-needed Zzzz’s to help promote healthy healing.  
  • Load up on healthy, wholesome foods.  This isn’t the time for chilling with a bag of Cheetos on the couch.  
  • You can begin low-impact, lower-body exercises and light walking 72 hours following surgery to boost circulation, prevent blood clots, and deliver oxygen-rich blood to incision sites for optimal healing.
  • Though not exactly sexy, it’s important to keep your breasts supported by a surgical bra for a period recommended by your doctor.  

Breast Reduction Surgery Risks:  When the Road to Recovery Gets Bumpy
Though rare, there have been reported complications following surgery.  Here are some risks commonly associated:

  • As with most surgical procedures, expect some scarring, though minimal.  Depending on your skin’s elasticity and health and lots of vitamin E, scars may become imperceptible over time.  
  • Infection
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Swelling, bruising, and/or nerve damage 
  • Need for additional surgery
  • Prolonged loss of sensation in breast and/or nipples 
  • Inadequate healing of the nipple area may require skin grafting (very rare)



In Summary
Many patients inquire about the possibility of weight loss and future sagging following their breast reduction surgery.  While excess fat and fluid were removed during the surgery, a patient may or may not experience a significant amount of weight loss.  Because the body will continue to naturally age, there is always the possibility of some level of sagging of the skin – anywhere on the body – irrespective of breast reduction surgery.  As with any surgery, if you encounter excessive pain, bleeding, discharge, or any other unforeseen complication post-op, consult your doctor immediately.


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