What is breast reduction surgery?
Also known as reduction mammaplasty, breast reduction surgery removes excess breast fat, glandular tissue and skin to achieve a breast size in proportion with your body and to alleviate the discomfort associated with overly large breasts.
before and 12 weeks after breast reduction surgery with Dr Sharp
Is breast reduction surgery right for me?
We understand that very large breasts can cause both emotional and physical discomfort. The appearance of the breasts can make it difficult to fit comfortably into clothes, and can also attract unwanted attention. The weight of pendulous breasts can make exercise difficult, while placing strain on the body and causing chronic neck and back pain - as well as long term posture problems. Breast reduction surgery is a highly personal procedure, and it makes permanent changes to your body. It’s important to do it for yourself; not to fulfil someone else’s expectations or to conform to an ‘ideal’ image.
Breast reduction may be suitable if you are:
- healthy, but finding that physical activity is hampered by your large breasts
- experiencing back, neck and shoulder pain caused by heavy breasts
- a non-smoker
- finding that clothes or underwear does not fit properly, or bra straps dig into your shoulders creating deep grooves
- constantly battling skin irritation or hygiene issues beneath the breast crease
- noticing that your nipples rest below the breast crease when your breasts are unsupported, with enlarged, over-stretched areolas
- approaching surgery with realistic expectations
The surgery is performed under general anaesthetic and takes two to three hours. It can be performed as a day procedure, or with an inpatient stay.
before and after breast reduction surgery with Dr Sharp
Why have a breast reduction?
The goals of breast reduction surgery are unique to every patient, and can include:
- To create a more balanced, proportionate appearance
- Remove heavy breast tissue
- Remove loose skin
- Reposition the nipple to a higher position, giving a ‘lifted’ appearance to the chest area
- Reduce the back and neck pain - and posture issues - associated with large breasts
What do I need to know before my breast reduction?
The safety of your breast reduction procedure - and the end result - will highly depend on your understanding of the risks, healing period and ongoing breast care, all of which will be discussed during your consultations. You’ll be asked a number of questions about your health, lifestyle and desired result; it is important to be honest with Dr Sharp about these, and to let him know if there is any aspect of the procedure, risks or recovery that you don’t understand. We request two pre operative consultations - giving you plenty of time to ask questions!
Here are some important things to consider, and discuss with Dr Sharp, if you are considering a breast reduction:
- breast reduction surgery can interfere with certain diagnostic procedures
- breast and nipple piercing can cause an infection
- your ability to breastfeed following reduction mammaplasty may be impacted; talk to Dr Sharp if you are considering pregnancy
- breast reduction can be performed at any age, but is best done when your breasts are fully developed
- changes in the breasts during pregnancy can alter the outcomes of previous breast reduction surgery, as can significant weight fluctuations
Although good results are always expected from this procedure, there is no guarantee that the results will meet your expectations. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single breast reduction procedure and further surgery may be necessary.
What can I expect during my first consultation?
Prior to your consultation you will receive an email from us with information about you consultation, the best place to park, and how to find us. We will also ask you to bring your referral along with your Medicare and health fund details. Your first consult will be 30-40 minutes long. During this consultation Dr Sharp will ask you some questions, such as:
- why do you want breast reduction surgery - what do you hope it will achieve for you?
- do you have any medical conditions, drug allergies or previous medical treatments/surgery?
- are you on any medications, vitamins or herbal supplements?
- do you smoke?
- do you have a family history of breast cancer, or have you ever been diagnosed with breast cancer?
Dr Sharp will also go through the steps of breast reduction surgery. He will discuss the anaesthetic, hospital inpatient or day surgery options, potential risk and complications - as well as the expected recovery process. Dr Sharp will examine your breasts and note measurements such as their size, shape, nipple placements and areolas. During this visit you will also have medical photos taken of your breasts which will be saved to your clinical record, both for reference if required during surgery, and also so you can ascertain your results post operatively.
You are welcome to bring a trusted support person along to your consultation. We also offer a female chaperone for patients who would prefer to have one present for personal or cultural reasons; please let us know upon arrival at the clinic if you would like to utilise this.
If you decide to proceed with surgery, you will have a second consultation with Dr Sharp - free of charge - to discuss the procedure again in detail, reiterate any risks or potential complications and finalise the details of your procedure.
What happens during breast reduction surgery?
Breast reduction surgery is performed through incisions on your breasts. Excess fat, glandular tissue and skin are removed, sometimes with the assistance of liposuction as well as excision.
The technique used to reduce the size of your breasts will be determined by your individual measurements, breast composition, amount of reduction desired, your personal preferences and Dr Sharp’s advice.
Step 1 - Anesthesia
Dr Sharp performs breast reduction surgery under general anaesthesia, using trusted and experienced anaesthetists.
Step 2 - The incision
Incision options include:
- A circular pattern around the areola: The incision lines that remain are visible and permanent scars, although usually well concealed beneath a swimsuit or bra.
- A keyhole or racquet-shaped pattern with an incision around the areola and vertically down to the breast crease
- An inverted T or anchor-shaped incision pattern - this is the incision most frequently used to effectively reduce breasts and create a pleasing shape
Step 3 - Removing tissue and repositioning
After the incision is made, the nipple - which is left attached to its original blood and nerve supply - is then repositioned. The areola is reduced by excising skin at the perimeter if necessary. Underlying breast tissue is reduced, lifted and shaped. If required, the nipple and areola may be removed and transplanted to a higher position on the breast; this is called a ‘free nipple graft’.
Step 4 - Closing the incisions
The incisions are brought together to reshape the now smaller breast. Sutures are layered deep within the breast tissue to create and support the newly shaped breasts; sutures and surgical tape close and support the skin. Incision lines are permanent, but in most cases will fade and significantly improve over time. If you are concerned about scarring, please speak to our helpful team about our scar optimisation prescriptions.
Step 5 - Post operatively
The results of your breast reduction surgery are immediately visible. If you are having day surgery, you will return home a few hours after the operation with drains in place to help remove fluid that can build up following surgery. These will be removed by Dr Sharp’s nurse a few days after surgery, depending on your recovery. You will need to have a trusted support person to assist you in the days following the procedure. If you are having the procedure as an inpatient, you will stay in hospital for approximately 3 days, and the drains will be removed prior to you going home. You will be bruised and sore for about 1 week following the procedure, however this will significantly improve during the second and third week after surgery. Dr Sharp will give you a post operative support bag to take home from your surgery, containing some helpful products to assist with optimal recovery.
You will have your first post operative visit at our clinic 7 days after your surgery, and then a second consultation with Dr Sharp 6 weeks after surgery - and a third consult at 12 weeks after surgery. You are welcome to book additional post operative consultations if you have any concerns. These consults are free of charge for the 3 months following surgery.
Most patients experience posture changes after their procedure, due to the removal of the weight that they have been carrying. Physiotherapy may assist you in correcting poor posture after a breast reduction.
Over time, post operative swelling will resolve and incision lines will fade. As with all surgery, following your post operative instructions and maintaining a healthy lifestyle will give you the best chances of an excellent recovery.
How do I choose my surgeon?
Breast reduction surgery is very safe in Australia, performed by plastic surgeons who have received advanced training and experience in this procedure. However it is a major procedure – and therefore, choosing the right surgeon is of upmost importance.
Breast reduction surgery should be performed by a qualified plastic surgeon who is registered as a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. You can confirm your surgeon’s credentials here
Dr David Sharp is a qualified plastic surgeon with a special interest in reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery. His personalised approach means that you receive plenty of pre operative time with him to discuss your specific body goals and any questions. The procedure is shaped around you, and your desired result.
It is very normal to feel both nervous, and an excited sense of anticipation, when planning your breast reduction. Dr Sharp takes the time to ensure you have as many consultations as you require, to ensure your treatment is customised to suit your body and expectations – and address any concerns you may have. Our friendly team is on hand to promptly answer any administrative questions you may have. And after your surgery, our caring post operative nurse will support you through your recovery process - she is only ever a phone call away, 24/7!
When choosing a surgeon, it’s important to consider not only their qualifications and credentials, but also:
- how many pre operative consultations will I have, and how much will they cost?
- what hospital facilities do you perform this procedure in?
- what post operative support do you provide, and are there any costs to me for post operative consults or after-hours support?
- if I had a complication that required re-hospitalisation, what would be the course of action (this may be dependent upon your private health fund coverage, so it is important to ask)?
Breast reduction, pregnancy + breastfeeding
While it cannot be guaranteed, it is most likely you will be able to breast feed after your breast reduction. The remaining breast tissue still has the glands and ducts that should enable you to breastfeed.
Talk to Dr Sharp if you are planning to fall pregnant or breastfeed after your breast reduction. Changes in the breasts during pregnancy can alter the outcomes of previous breast reduction surgery, as can significant weight fluctuations.
Do breast reductions remove stretch marks?
A breast reduction does not remove stretch marks per se, however some of these might be removed or reduced if they are located on the excess skin that is excised, generally in the lower part of the breast.
Dr Sharp’s PRAHS Cosmetic and Rejuvenation Clinics offers a range of safe skin therapies that have been scientifically proven to reduce stretch marks – without surgery, needles or down time. If you are concerned about stretch marks, call 3202 4744.
What kind of anaesthetic will I have?
Breast reduction surgery is performed under a full general anaesthetic. A specifically selected range of medications are administered during the surgery to ensure your post-operative comfort. Dr Sharp works with an experienced team of anaesthetists.
Combined breast reduction, liposuction or abdominoplasty
Dr Sharp performs breast reduction surgery alongside liposuction and abdominoplasty surgery. Advantages of combining procedures include the aesthetic benefit of having a ‘total’ result, less overall downtime and time off work. However, combined surgery requires a number of considerations which can be discussed in detail with Dr Sharp during your consultation to see if it is suitable for you.
Risks and complications
Like any surgery, you must weigh up whether the benefits outway the risks for you. While breast reduction surgery is very common, it also carries risks.
Dr Sharp will explain in detail the risks associated with surgery. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure you will undergo and any risks or potential complications. You will go home with a written copy of the information discussed with Dr Sharp.
The risks of breast reduction and breast reduction complications include:
- Unfavorable scarring, including scar tethering/puckering
- Changes in nipple or breast sensation, which may be temporary or permanent
- Anesthesia risks
- Bleeding (hematoma)
- Blood clots
- Poor wound healing
- Breast contour and shape irregularities
- Skin discoloration, permanent pigmentation changes, swelling and bruising
- Damage to deeper structures - such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and lungs - can occur and may be temporary or permanent
- Breast asymmetry
- Fluid accumulation
- Excessive firmness of the breast
- Potential inability to breastfeed
- Potential loss of skin/tissue of breast where incisions meet each other
- Potential, partial or total loss of nipple and areola
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Pain, which may persist
- Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, blood products, topical preparations or injectable agents
- Fatty tissue deep in the skin could die (fat necrosis)
- Possibility of revisional surgery being required
Complications are rare, and Dr Sharp and his team manage each of these risks with the upmost care to further reduce the likelihood of them occurring. In the event they do occur, most can be treated quickly and easily with prompt intervention.
But everyone’s body responds differently to surgery, and in some cases, post operative revision surgery might be required.
Some factors, such as weight, lifestyle or health problems can increase the chance of a complication occurring. Dr Sharp will take time to learn about your potential risk factors during your pre operative consultations, and will determine if they are relevant to your surgery.
The chances of complications or healing problems are greatly reduced if you adhere to the written post operative instructions that you will go home with after surgery. This includes detailed wound care instructions, abstaining from smoking, attending your scheduled post operative appointments, watching out for signs of infection and contacting us as soon as you have any concerns.
If you have any concerns regarding your breast reduction and the associated risks, feel free to book additional pre operative consultations with Dr Sharp.
Breast reduction recovery
After your breast reduction, your incisions will be covered by dressings (bandaging) and you will be wrapped in a surgical tape to provide support and reduce swelling. During the surgery, small drains (thin plastic tubing) is placed under the skin, enabling excess blood and fluid to drain away from the site; this reduces swelling, discomfort and the chances of a haematoma forming. These tubes are removed after drainage has stopped.
You will need to rest and recovery carefully for the first week; during this time you will feel bruised and sore, but most patients manage well with the pain relief prescribed for them when they leave hospital. Don’t plan on doing anything during this first week; if you don’t have someone to support you at home with getting in and out of the shower, cooking etc plase discuss this with Dr Sharp during your pre operative consultation so alternative arrangements can be made.
In the second week post surgery, you will begin to notice improvements in your bruising, swelling and discomfort. You can gradually begin to return to gentle activities, and usually can return to work 2 weeks after the surgery.
However, you will need to limit your movements to very gentle activities for the first 6 weeks after surgery, so if your work requires manual labour or strenuous repetitive movements, please discuss this with Dr Sharp as modified duties may need to be organised when you return to work.
Patients often comment that the immediate relief from back pain and discomfort that they experience after breast reduction surgery makes them want to go straight out and do activities or exercise they hadn’t been able to participate in before. A healthy and active lifestyle will certainly help support and enhance your breast reduction results, but must be eased into slowly and with due care.
What can I do to reduce breast reduction scars?
Scars are an inevitable part of all surgery, and will reduce and fade over time on their own. However, we like to arm our patients with the information they need to speed up the process.
This begins immediately after the surgery; you will go home with a post operative product kit containing the items you need for your early post operative scar care.
After your 6 week consultation, if you wish to optimise your scars and accelerate their progress, you might want to consider Dermapen microneedling or Fraxel laser - both comfortable and effective scar reduction treatments we offer in our clinics.
Or if you would prefer a topical scar treatment, Dr Sharp has formulated an Advanced Healing Gel that is available through our rooms, specifically designed to optimise and improve the appearance of scars. Call us on 3202 4744 to find out more.
Is there an age limit to breast reduction surgery?
No; breast reduction surgery can be performed at any age, but is best done when breasts are fully developed, from the age of 18 onwards. However, in some cases of extreme breast excess in younger women, the benefits of doing the surgery earlier may outweigh the potential risks and complications. Irrespective of age, it is worthwhile contacting us to seek Dr Sharp’s opinion.
Breast reduction + breast cancer
Breast reduction surgery does not diminish the need to have routine screening. Visit BreastScreen Queensland’s website here to find out when you should start having mammograms, and how to go about booking one.
How much does a breast reduction cost?
Potential costs include:
- Dr Sharp’s fee
- Anaesthetist fee
- Assistant’s fee
- Theatre costs
- Support garments
Breast reduction surgery is listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule, meaning it is covered by most private health insurance, however it is important to confirm this with your fund provider as different levels of cover may exclude the procedure.
If you have private fund coverage, your hospital costs (minus any excess) will be covered by your fund. Your fund will also provide you with a rebate for a portion of your surgeon and anaesthetist’s fees.
If you don’t have private health insurance, you will still receive a rebate on a portion of your surgeon and anaesthetist’s fees, however your hospital fee will be entirely payable by you as no rebate will apply for this component.
You will receive a $72 rebate on your initial $180 consultation fee. If you choose to go ahead with surgery, your second consult will be free of charge. Dr Sharp also does not charge for post operative consultations in the 12 weeks following surgery.
After your consultation with Dr Sharp, if your surgery meets Medicare’s criteria for breast reduction surgery, you will be provided with an item number. We recommend you contact your health insurance provider and ask them if you are covered for plastic surgery, particularly siting the item number provided.
It is important to understand that, in the case of complications or revision surgery, the cost of your breast reduction might extend to future surgical procedures and hospitalisations. We encourage patients to think about how they would fund further treatment beyond the immediate costs expected.
Breast reduction results + expectations
Breast reduction surgery produces a smaller breast, more proportionate body shape and alleviates the strain on your shoulders, back and neck. However your immediate results can be obscured by swelling and posture restrictions.
Despite the physical weight relief, some women can also find it difficult to adjust to their new breast size initially. Some are initially shocked by the new body they see in the mirror, and find it hard to identify with it at first.
During the process of preparing for surgery, it is absolutely normal to get caught up in the excitement, or anxiety, and breeze over the informed consent aspect of your preparations with Dr Sharp. Although this aspect of your pre operative consultations can seem like an overload of unnecessary and overcautious information, it is extremely important to consider everything being discussed, especially with regards to your desired outcome, Dr Sharp’s indication of your likely outcome - and the potential risks and complications. This is also why we require a 2 week ‘cooling off’ period before your surgery, so you have adequate time in the quietness of your own home to reflect upon everything discussed with Dr Sharp and the outcome you are expecting to achieve.
Patients who have actively participated in this part of their surgery preparation have well informed, sensible expectations of what the surgery can achieve for them, and experience higher levels of satisfaction after their procedure - which is something Dr Sharp and his team strive for each patient to feel!
Be sure to ask questions; it is very important to address all your questions directly with Dr Sharp. It’s natural to feel some anxiety and anticipation; discuss these feelings with Dr Sharp.
How long do the results last?
Your result will last forever (or at least as long as you do), provided you generally maintain your operative weight and don’t sustain injuries or undergo further breast surgery. Pregnancy and substantial weight gain are the two most common reasons why breast reduction results may be altered.
Breast reduction: words to know
- Areola: Pigmented skin surrounding the nipple
- Breast reduction: Also known as reduction mammaplasty, the surgical removal of breast tissue to reduce the size of breasts
- General anesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness
- Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin
- Intravenous sedation: Sedatives administered by injection into a vein to help you relax
- Liposuction: Also called lipoplasty or suction lipectomy, a procedure that vacuums out fat from beneath the skin’s surface to reduce fullness
- Local anesthesia: A drug injected directly to the site of an incision during an operation to relieve pain
- Mammogram: An x-ray image of the breast
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): A painless test to view tissue, similar to an x-ray
- Reduction mammaplasty: The surgical removal of breast tissue to reduce the size of breasts; also known as breast reduction surgery
- Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together