Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Breast Reduction
Breast reduction surgery (reduction mammoplasty) removes some of the tissue and skin from the
breasts to reshape and reduce the size of the breasts.
It can also make the area of dark skin surrounding the nipple (areola) smaller.
To remove tissue and
skin from the breast, the surgeon first makes one or more cuts in the breast.
After the excess tissue and skin have been removed, the skin is closed with
stitches. Sometimes the nipple and areola have to be removed and repositioned.
Sometimes liposuction is used along with surgery. If most of the breast is fatty tissue and if excess skin isn't a problem, liposuction alone may be enough for breast reduction.
Breast reduction surgery is done in a hospital or
surgical center, typically with
general anesthesia. The surgery usually takes 3 to 5
hours. An overnight stay is not usually required. For smaller reductions, the surgery may be done with local anesthesia.
Breast lift (mastopexy) is similar to a breast reduction,
except that in some cases only skin is removed. A breast lift
can raise sagging or drooping breasts, which is a common problem with large,
heavy breasts, and can elevate the nipple and areola.
Immediately after surgery, gauze is
placed over the incisions, and the breasts are wrapped in an elastic bandage or
supported with a special surgical bra. In some cases, there may be a small tube
in each breast to help drain blood and fluid for the first couple of days.
Stitches may be removed in 1 to 2 weeks.
Most women have some
breast pain for the first few days after surgery and then milder discomfort for
a week or longer. Medicine can help relieve the pain. Swelling and bruising may
last for several weeks. Wearing a surgical bra 24 hours a day can help reduce
swelling and support the breasts while they heal.
You will likely
resume your normal work and social activities within a couple of weeks, unless
those activities involve heavy lifting or strenuous exercise. You may need to
avoid more vigorous exercise and activities for 3 to 4 weeks or more. It's
important to wear a bra that supports the breasts well, such as a sports or
You will have visible scars on your breasts after
breast reduction surgery. These are almost always in areas that can be covered
by a bra or swimsuit. Scars may fade over time, but they will not
Breast reduction surgery is done to
change the size, weight, firmness, and shape of the breasts. You may decide to
have breast reduction surgery to:
Women who have breast reduction
surgery are often extremely satisfied. It can make the breasts smaller, firmer,
lighter, and more evenly proportioned. It usually relieves the physical
discomfort and pain caused by large breasts.
The results of breast
reduction surgery are considered permanent. But the breasts may become larger
or their shape may change as a result of pregnancy, weight gain, or weight
The most common risks of breast reduction surgery
Less commonly, damage to the breast's blood supply may
occur during surgery. This may delay the skin's healing process. Loss of part
or all of the nipple and areola can also occur, but this is not common.
Other risks of surgery include:
These risks can be serious or even life-threatening, but
they rarely occur.
Keep in mind that breast reduction
may make breastfeeding difficult or impossible in the future. Some
women may still be able to breastfeed after having reduction surgery.
If you are thinking about having a breast reduction, contact your
insurance company. Some insurance companies cover some or all of the costs of
breast reduction surgery if surgery is being done to relieve back pain, skin
problems, or other medical problems caused by large or heavy breasts. They
typically will not cover breast reduction surgery being done solely to change
the appearance of the breasts, because it is not considered a medically
necessary procedure when done for this reason.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerKeith A. Denkler, MD - Plastic Surgery
Current as ofFebruary 5, 2016
Current as of:
February 5, 2016
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Keith A. Denkler, MD - Plastic Surgery
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
I Want To...
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.