What is breast lift surgery?
A breast lift, also known as mastopexy, is a procedure that raises and firms the breasts. Excess skin is removed to tighten the surrounding tissue and to reshape and support the new breast contour. For women with breast ptosis - whereby the nipple sits below the inframammary fold, or points down (click the image on the right to see the different types of ptosis) - a mastopexy results in the nipple sitting higher on the breast.
The internal breast tissue is usually reshaped as well. Sometimes the areola (the darker skin around the nipple) becomes enlarged over time, and a breast lift will reduce this as well.
Why have a breast lift?
Common goals of breast lift surgery include:
- To change the alignment of the nipple and breast or raise the nipple position in relation to the rest of the breast.
- To pull up sagging breasts (correcting breast ptosis).
- To reshape the breasts.
- To change the size and/or shape of the areola.
Over the years, factors such as pregnancy, nursing, and the force of gravity take their toll on a woman’s breasts. As the skin loses its elasticity, the breasts often lose their shape and firmness and begin to sag. Breast lift is a surgical procedure to raise and reshape sagging breasts.
If your breasts are small or have lost volume — for example, after pregnancy — breast implants inserted in conjunction with a breast lift can increase both their firmness and their size.
What breast lift surgery won’t do:
Breast lift surgery does not significantly change the size of your breasts or round out the upper part of your breast.
How do I know if mastopexy is right for me?
Before you decide on breast lift surgery, there are some important issues to keep in mind:
- Breast lift surgery does not significantly change the size of your breasts or round out the upper part of your breast. If you want your breasts to look fuller or smaller, you might want to consider either breast augmentation or breast reduction surgery
- Surgeons generally recommend waiting until breast development, child birth and breastfeeding have stopped before undertaking breast lift surgery
- Although breasts of any size can be lifted, the results may not be as long-lasting in women with heavier breasts
A breast lift may be a good option for you if:
- You are physically healthy
- You have realistic expectations
- Your breasts are fully developed
- Your breasts are sagging and have lost their shape and firmness
- Your breasts have a flatter, elongated shape or are pendulous
- When unsupported, your nipples fall below the breast crease
- Your nipples and areolas point downward
- You have stretched skin and enlarged areolas
- One breast is lower than the other
- Remember that the shape and size of your breasts before surgery will influence the surgical procedure and the outcome.
Many women seek mastopexy because pregnancy and breastfeeding have left them with stretched skin and less volume in their breasts. However, if you’re planning to have more children, it may be a good idea to postpone your breast lift. While there are no special risks that affect future pregnancies (for example, mastopexy doesn’t usually interfere with breast-feeding), pregnancy is likely to stretch your breasts again and offset the results of the procedure
What is involved in breast lift surgery?
Your breast lift procedure can be achieved through a variety of incision patterns and techniques.
The appropriate technique for you will be determined based on:
- Breast size and shape
- The size and position of your areolas
- The degree of breast sagging
- Skin quality and elasticity as well as the amount of extra skin
Step 1 - Anaesthesia
Mastopexy surgery is performed under a general anaesthetic with a specialist anaesthetist meaning you will be completely asleep and feel nothing during surgery.
Step 2 - The incision
There are three common incision patterns:
- Around the areola
- Around the areola and vertically down from the areola to the breast crease
- Around the areola, vertically down from the breast crease and horizontally along the breast crease
Step 3 - Reshaping your breasts
The incision outlines the area from which breast skin will be removed and defines the new location for the nipple. When the excess skin has been removed, the nipple and areola are moved to the higher position. The skin surrounding the areola is then brought down and together to reshape the breast. Stitches are usually located around the areola, in a vertical line extending downwards from the nipple area, and along the lower crease of the breast.
If you’re having an implant inserted along with your breast lift, it will be placed in a pocket directly under the breast tissue, or deeper, under the muscle of the chest wall.
Step 4 - Closing the incisions
Some incision lines resulting from breast lift are concealed in the natural breast contours; however, others are visible on the breast surface. Incision lines are permanent, but in most cases will fade and significantly improve over time.
Sutures are layered deep within the breast tissue to create and support the newly shaped breasts. Sutures, skin adhesives and/or surgical tape may be used to close the skin.
Step 5 - See the results
The results of your breast lift surgery are immediately visible, although swelling and bruising may be present immediately after surgery, and your final result may take 6 months to fully present.
Your breast lift may be performed as either a day procedure or overnight stay in hospital.
During your breast lift recovery, a surgical support bra will be applied to the incisions after the procedure is completed. You’ll need to wear the support bra for three to four weeks to minimise swelling and support your breasts as they heal. A small, thin tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect. The stitches will be removed after a week or two.
If your breast skin is very dry following surgery, you can apply our moisturiser several times a day. Be careful not to tug at your skin in the process, and keep the moisturiser away from the suture areas.
You can expect some loss of feeling in your nipples and breast skin, caused by the swelling after surgery. This numbness usually fades as the swelling subsides over the next six weeks or so. In some patients, however, it may last a year or more, and occasionally it may be permanent.
Healing is a gradual process. Although you may be up and about in a day or two, don’t plan on returning to work for a week or more, depending on how you feel. And avoid lifting anything over your head for up to six weeks, and if you feel any pain, cease the movement. If you have any unusual symptoms, don’t hesitate to call Dr Sharp.
Dr Sharp will give you detailed instructions for resuming your normal activities. You may be instructed to avoid strenuous activity and sports for about a month. After that, you can resume these activities slowly. If you become pregnant, the operation should not affect your ability to breast-feed, since your milk ducts and nipples will be left intact, however your results may be impacted by breast changes during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Breast lift results + expectations
It’s important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, swelling, abrasion, or motion during the time of healing.
The results of your breast lift surgery are immediately visible. Over time, post-surgical swelling will resolve and incision lines will fade. Satisfaction with your new image should continue to grow as you recover from surgery. The final results of your breast lift will appear over the next few months as breast shape and position continue to settle.
Dr Sharp will make every effort to make your scars as inconspicuous as possible. Still, it’s important to remember that mastopexy scars are extensive and permanent. They often remain lumpy and red for months, then gradually become less obvious, sometimes eventually fading to thin white lines. Fortunately, the scars can usually be placed so that they are not visible when wearing swimwear or lingerie.
You should also keep in mind that a breast lift won’t keep you firm forever — the effects of gravity, pregnancy, aging, and weight fluctuations will eventually take their toll again. Women who have implants along with their breast lift may find the results last longer.
Your satisfaction with a breast lift is likely to be greater if you understand the procedure thoroughly and if your expectations are realistic. You’ll be able to retain your new look longer if you:
- Maintain your weight
- Have a healthy lifestyle
Breast lift surgery and pregnancy
Breast surgery should be entertained after child bearing is completed. Changes that occur in the breasts during pregnancy can minimize or reverse the improvement a breast lift provides.
Likewise, significant weight loss after breast surgery can negatively impact breast appearance.
Breast lift risks + complications
Like any surgery, you must weigh up whether the benefits out way the risks for you. While arm lift surgery is common, it also carries risks. Your pre-operative consultations with Dr Sharp will enable him to discuss potential complications with you, and help you determine whether the surgery is right for you.
Breast lift risks include:
- Anesthesia risks
- Bleeding or hematoma formation
- Poor healing of incisions
- Changes in nipple or breast sensation, which may be temporary or permanent
- Breast contour and shape irregularities
- Breast asymmetry
- Fatty tissue found deep in the skin might die (fat necrosis)
- Fluid accumulation
- Potential partial or total loss of nipple and areola
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Possibility of revisional surgery
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.
Everyone’s body responds differently to surgery. In some cases, post-operative revision surgery might be required.
Some factors, such as weight, smoking, 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.
If you have any concerns regarding your breast lift and the associated risks, feel free to book additional pre operative consultations with Dr Sharp by calling 3202 4744.
How do I choose my surgeon?
Breast lift surgery is very safe, and performed frequently by plastic surgeons. However it is a major procedure – and therefore, choosing the right surgeon is of upmost importance.
Mastopexy surgery should be performed by a qualified plastic surgeon who has undergone specialist training and examination, and is registered as a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. You can confirm your surgeon’s credentials here
Dr Sharp is a qualified plastic surgeon with a special interest in reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery. He understands that for many women, breast shape and size is intrinsically connected to their sense of femininity and body confidence - and appreciates the levity of this procedure for those who have considered it for many years before finally venturing down the path of surgery.
It’s normal to feel both nervous, and an excited sense of anticipation, when planning your breast lift. Dr Sharp will take the time to ensure you have as many consultations as you require, and will customise your treatment to suit your body and expectations – and address any concerns you may have.
Breast lift + pregnancy
If you are planning future pregnancies, Dr Sharp recommends that you postpone having a breast lift until you think you have completed your family. If you have had a breast lift with Dr Sharp and become pregnant, it will be likely that you will be able to breastfeed. However, after pregnancy or breastfeeding, you may find that you have had a recurrence of breast sagging or ptosis and require further surgery to return your breasts to their original post-mastopexy condition.
Dr Sharp has a special interest in post-pregnancy transformations - also known as ‘mummy makeover’ surgery. Click here to read more about tummy tuck and breast surgery options for restoring pre-pregnancy body shape and condition.
Do breast lifts remove stretch marks?
A mastopexy will not correct stretch marks, however some stretch marks may be removed or reduced if they are located on the excess skin that is removed during the breast list.
If you are concerned about stretch marks, talk to Dr Sharp about the non surgical solutions available, using medical grade laser and skin therapies to reduce pigmentation and marks on the breast without surgery, needles or down time.
Breast lift scars
Breast reduction surgery involves visible scars, which is why it is important to choose a qualified plastic surgeon, to ensure the best techniques and approach is taken to ensure scars are as minimal as possible.
If you are concerned about scarring or would like to know more about scar reduction therapies, ask Dr Sharp about his pre and post operative skin optimisation program that supports you in maintaining healthy skin quality throughout, and after, your surgical journey to reducing long term scarring.
What kind of anaesthetic will I have?
Dr Sharp performs breast reduction surgery 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 a team of experienced and skilled anesthetists.
How much time should I take off work?
You should avoid strenuous activity for up to six weeks. Depending on your work, you could need to take up to a month off work, although many people return to work, particularly if it involves sedentary activity, after 2 weeks.
How much do breast lifts cost?
Potential costs include:
- Dr Sharp’s fee
- Anaesthetist fee
- Assistant’s fee
- Theatre costs
- Support garments
Breast lift surgery for cosmetic reasons is not covered by most private health insurers. However, in some cases, your surgery might be classified as reconstructive, and therefore have a Medicare item number. If so, you might be eligible to claim a rebate from Medicare, as well as your private health fund.
In these cases, after a consultation with Dr Sharp, an application for pre-approval can be lodged with Medicare - with photographs and supporting evidence – to assist with forward planning your out of pocket expenses.
After your consultation with Dr Sharp, if there’s a possibility that your surgery meets Medicare’s criteria, 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 lift 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.
How long do the results last?
Breast sagging is a natural part of aging; with a combination of gravity, weight change, reduction in volume/fat and skin laxity all playing a part - so ongoing sagging is an inevitable part of aging over the decades, even after a mastopexy. However, the longevity of your results can be maintained through a healthy lifestyle, supportive bras and stable weight. Pregnancy and substantial weight gain are the two most common reasons why breast lift results don’t last.
If you are having a combined breast augmentation and lift, selecting ideal implant size and shape with Dr Sharp will be an important aspect of ensuring that your mastopexy results aren’t undermined by an overly large, or poorly selected, implant.
Breast lift; words to know
- Areola: Pigmented skin surrounding the nipple.
- Breast augmentation: Also known as augmentation mammaplasty, breast enlargement by surgery.
- Breast lift: Also known as mastopexy; surgery to lift the breasts.
- Breast reduction: Also known as reduction mammaplasty, reduction of breast size by surgery.
- Excision: To remove the skin.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mastopexy: Surgery to lift the breasts.
- Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together.