Breast Reduction

May 8, 2014 Scott C. Sattler

What is Breast Reduction Surgery?

A breast reduction (reduction mammoplasty) is a surgical procedure that reduces breast weight to improve both biomechanical function and aesthetics. After breast reduction surgery, the breast is ‘lighter’ and has a better shape. Many women with heavy and pendulous breasts suffer from neck pain, back pain and head aches for many decades of life. Self-consciousness in social settings and the inability to find properly fitting clothing are also frequent concerns. A breast reduction can significantly improve these functional and aesthetic issues.

Patient satisfaction with breast reduction surgery is extremely high. When the American Society of Plastic Surgeons surveyed a large group of women after breast reduction surgery recently, over 95% of patients responded that they would have the surgery done again. Breast reduction surgery consistently ranks at the top of patient satisfaction surveys for all procedures performed by plastic surgeons.

How is Breast Reduction Surgery Done?

Depending on your breast anatomy and goals for breast reduction, there are several methods to surgically reduce breast size. Breast reduction techniques commonly used in the United States result in a 'traditional' Wise-pattern (anchor-shaped scar) or a 'short scar' vertical scar pattern. The type of scar is usually dictated by the breast size, skin surface area and preference of both patient and surgeon. The nipple and areolar skin complex is reduced in diameter and lifted in a more aesthetic position. There are pros and cons to each breast reduction technique. Your surgeon will discuss these techniques and make recommendations for your unique breast size and shape.

For most healthy women, a breast reduction is an 'outpatient' operation, meaning patients return home on the day of surgery. A general anesthetic is typically used during the surgical procedure. Some surgeons use surgical drainage tubes to collect any fluid from inside the breast that might result from the operation. Surgical drains are not used by every surgeon. Patients are fitted with a soft and supportive surgical bra after surgery. This bra is worn until it is comfortable to start wearing a regular bra.

Some patients with neck pain, back pain and headaches have these symptoms for reasons other than their large breast size. A breast reduction is not a guarantee of relief from these complaints, but the operation is helpful for many women. Breast reduction surgery results are best for women that are close to their ideal body weight. The operation is typically not performed for patients that are actively smoking.

How Much Breast Tissue Will Be Removed?

The amount of breast tissue that will be removed during breast reduction surgery is based on several factors. A patient’s expectations for size and shape after surgery are taken into consideration when deciding how much breast tissue to remove. Your breast measurements, height and weight will be considered as well. Using this information, a range of estimated breast reduction weights can be calculated. For patients that are interested in having their insurance company pay for surgery, there may be specific breast weight reduction criteria that must be met in order for the operation to be covered.

Breast Reduction - Cosmetic or Insurance ?

A breast reduction surgery is sometimes considered to be a reconstructive procedure, in which an insurance policy would cover the surgery as an approved benefit. Insurance company policies that cover breast reduction surgery as an approved benefit have strict policies regarding the amount of breast tissue that must be removed relative to a patient’s height and weight. These criteria vary between the various insurance plans. Your surgeon might attempt to obtain insurance pre-authorization for you prior to surgery.

For some patients, the goal of breast reduction is more of a cosmetic issue than a functional issue. Other patients do not meet insurance company coverage criteria for breast reduction surgery. In these cases, patients have the option to pay for the procedure out-of-pocket prior to surgery. Liposuction, tummy tuck surgery and other cosmetic procedures can be combined with breast reduction surgery on a fee-for-service basis.


More information on breast reduction surgery and insurance coverage can be found here.

Before and after photos for breast reduction surgery can be viewed here.

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