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What Is Breast Reduction?

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Breast reduction surgery, also called reduction mammoplasty (or mammaplasty), is a surgical procedure designed to reduce the size of the breasts. The procedure reduces the size and weight of the breasts by removing skin and breast tissue.

Most Common Reasons For Breast Reduction Surgery

There are many reasons for undergoing breast reduction surgery. Disproportionately large breasts can make it difficult for a woman to exercise, play sports or find clothing that fit's properly. Women with large breasts may need to have their bras custom made and may have deep indentations on their shoulders caused by bra straps. Large breasts can lead to strained back muscles and back pain because the back compensates for the weight on the front of the body. Large breasts can also cause skin infections and irritations under the fold of the breast. Overly large breasts can also make a woman feel self-conscious and insecure, since she may be subject to unwanted attention. Mammoplasty can be helpful for all of these situations.

Mammoplasty can be done strictly for cosmetic reasons as well. If you feel that your breasts are out of proportion to your body, you may want to have them reduced in size.

However, because most women need breast surgery because of back or other health problems, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) classifies breast reduction surgery as a reconstructive surgery, one done to correct a physical or medical problem, rather than a cosmetic surgery that is done strictly to improve appearance. You can think of it this way: reconstructive surgery is surgery that you need, while cosmetic surgery is surgery that you want.

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Are You A Candidate For Breast Reduction?

Breast reduction surgery is performed regularly. According to the ASPS, there were 104,445 mammoplasty procedures done in 2006, up from 84,780 in 2000. It is the fifth leading reconstructive surgery performed.

Whether you are a good candidate for a breast reduction depends on your overall physical and mental health. You should be free of any active diseases or other pre-existing medical conditions that could make you unable to endure the surgery and recovery. These conditions include uncontrolled diabetes, asthma, bleeding disorders or heart problems.

You should also be healthy mentally and emotionally. The healing process can be difficult and tedious and requires a great deal of patience and mental stability. A period of depression is common after having surgery, so you should be mentally prepared for it to help keep this temporary depression from complicating any pre-existing mental problems.

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Is Breastfeeding Possible After Breast Reduction Surgery?

If you intend to have children after breast reduction surgery, understand that the surgery will interfere with breastfeeding and may make it impossible. The ability to breastfeed after mammoplasty depends on how much breast tissue is removed and whether the milk ductsthe small tubes that carry milk from the breast glands to the nippleare cut. Some women have been able to successfully breastfeed after reduction surgery (which includes women who had to supplement their breast milk with formula), but this is an issue you should give great thought to before you decide to have breast reduction surgery. It may be better to assume that you will not be able to breastfeed after breast reduction surgery and be pleasantly surprised when you can, than hope you will be able to breastfeed and be sadly disappointed.

Before you commit to a breast reduction procedure, you should sit with your surgeon and discuss how you want to look. This will help ensure your goals can be attained through surgery. You can look at before-and-after mammoplasty pictures to be sure you are both in agreement about how you want to look after the surgery.

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Scars After Mammoplasty

Mammoplasty will leave you with scars on your breasts. When you look at photos of women who have had mammoplasty, make sure you see how the scars look so youre prepared for how you will look after breast reduction surgery.

You should consider the cost of a breast reduction procedure. Health insurance will not cover a cosmetic procedure, but breast reduction surgery that is needed to alleviate back pain and skin irritation may be covered. If you are having health problems due to overly large, heavy breasts, contact your health insurer. If your insurance plan will not cover breast reduction surgery, financing is available.

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What Is Removed During Breast Reduction Surgery?

A breast consists of skin, fat, and the glands that produce milk. A network of small tubes called milk ducts run from the glands to the nipple. During a breast reduction procedure, the surgeon will remove excess breast tissue to create a breast that is the desired size and shape. The tissue removed is usually both fat tissue and glandular tissue.

The size of the areola (the dark area around the nipple) can also be adjusted during mammoplasty, if the areolae are too large.

Some surgeons may use liposuction as part of breast reduction surgery. In liposuction, a thin tube called a cannula attached to a vacuum device is used to break up fat and suction it away. Liposuction may be used to remove fat around the breast.

If you have very large breasts and the reduction surgery will be extensive, there is the possibility that you may need a blood transfusion. Your surgeon may suggest that you have a pint of blood drawn a week or two before your surgery. This way, if you need blood, you will get your own.

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How Breast Reduction Surgery Is Performed

If you are considering breast reduction surgery, you should understand how it is done. A breast reduction may take up to 3 hours to perform, depending on the technique used and the amount of work to be done. Surgery may take longer if other procedures, such as a tummy tuck, are performed in conjunction with breast reduction.

At your consultation, your surgeon will examine your breasts and look at you to help you decide what size breasts are more proportionate to your body. If your breasts are very tender at certain times of your menstrual cycle, try to schedule this appointment around that. Your surgeon may ask you to have a mammogram done before your breast reduction surgery.

Breast reduction surgery is usually done under general anesthesia, where you sleep through the procedure. Often, it is done in a hospital and you stay at least overnight, although less extensive reductions may be done in a freestanding surgical unit and you go home that day. You will need someone to drive you home in that case.

On the day of your surgery, your surgeon will use a pen to mark your breasts to show how much tissue will be removed and where the incisions will be placed. You will usually be standing during this marking procedure. Sometimes this marking is made a day or so before surgery. After marking, you will be prepped for the surgery, which will include having an intravenous (IV) line started and being attached to monitors that will keep track of your vital signs.

Once the incisions are made, the excess tissue is removed to reduce breast size and create a desired shape. Excess skin is removed, and the remaining skin is sutured to lift the breast into the new location. Your surgeon will examine your breasts at this point to ensure they are as symmetrical as possible.

A dressing is then applied to protect the wounds, keep the reconnected tissue securely in place, and reduce swelling. You may be put into a special surgical bra at this point, which is specially made to be supportive and not have seams in places that would irritate your incisions.

After the surgery is complete, you will be moved to a recovery room where you will wake up and where the staff can monitor you. You will stay there for about 2 hours. During recovery, you may feel discomfort, nausea or extreme cold, and you may experience emotional anguish. This is normal. The hospital staff can help you during this time with pain relievers, antinausea medications or warm blankets.

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