Breast Lift versus Breast Augmentation

At what point do you know if you need a breast lift vs breast implants (or both)?

Doctor Answers 145

My Breasts Have Fallen and They Can't Get Up - Augmentation or Breast Lift

Patients who I see in consultation for drooping breasts (ptosis) or volume loss after pregnancy (pseudoptosis) almost always have one very important question. "Can my drooping be corrected with just implants or do I need a lift".
Here is the answer based on what I look for and ask each patient in my practice setting in Sarasota, Florida.
Implants alone will correct drooping when:
  1. Breast drooping is mild
  2. The nipple is still near the center breast and does not point downward
  3. There is some visible skin beneath the nipple/areola when looking at the breasts straight on.
  4. The patient is okay with being at least a cup size larger
A breast lift (with or without an implant) is better when:
  1. Breast drooping is moderate or severe
  2. The nipple is at the bottom of the breast or points downward
  3. There is no visible skin under the nipple/areola when looking at the breasts straight on.
  4. The patient is already a C or D cup breast size and doesn't want to be larger
  5. The areola is too large and the patient wants it reduced
I also do a series of breast measurements to make sure they confirm what I believe from my observations and questions.
  1. If there is a long distance from the nipple and areola to the crease beneath the chest (more than 7 cm stretched skin, about 21/2 inches) a breast lift is often needed.
  2. If the patients breasts are large and pendulous a lift or reduction may be needed.
I also show the patient photographs of a spectrum of breast scar present after a breast lift in order to check their tolerance for this scar. Most patients are surprised how little the scar shows and are okay with proceeding. If the patient really needs a breast lift, but is concerned about the scars, I will suggest they wait on surgery. In time the breast appearance problems will usually outweigh their concern about the scars.
I use implants in combination with a lift when:
  1. The patient wants to be larger in addition to being less droopy
  2. The patient desires to maintain projection and roundness of the breast mound
  3. The drooping is severe

Breast augmentation or breast augmentation plus lift Augmentation mammoplasty

Some patients I see in consultation are primarily interested in a breast lift procedure. For those with a significant amount of existing breast tissue, a breast lift alone may produce an aesthetically ideal breast appearance. However, it can difficult to achieve significant fullness in the upper poles of the breasts (the upper aspect of the breasts, above the nipple-areola area) in many patients by means of a breast lift alone. I ask patients who are considering a breast lift procedure how important it is for them to have the appearance of some fullness in the upper part of the breasts, and to thereby achieve a significantly more youthful breast profile. For patients who confirm that this appearance is important to them, and who do not have enough natural upper pole breast tissue to achieve this appearance with a mastopexy alone, I recommend an augmentation mastopexy.
Other patients are primarily interested in increasing their breast volume, but have enough breast ptosis to make the appearance of breast augmentation alone odd and unappealing. Placing implants behind breasts with significant ptosis creates the appearance of breasts hanging off of a pair of implants, which looks distinctly unnatural and aesthetically unappealing. These patients are also best served by augmentation mastopexy, which in addition to increasing breast volume restores the position of the nipple-areola complex to the top of the breast mound, tightens the lower pole and lifts the breast.

Michael Law, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 70 reviews

Breast lift versus augmentation?

A breast implant is simply a bag of filler material designed to add volume to the breast.  It is not designed to do anything else.  I tell my patients that their breasts should look just like they do before surgery, only fuller.  If you look at your breasts and determine that that will not work for you then perhaps you need a different procedure.  Some patients who have lost volume from  pregnancy or weight loss simply have loss of volume to their breasts leaving them with a "scooped out" look.  The shape of their breasts may be fine.  They may simply need to "re-fill" the empty skin.  If that is the case, then an implant is the perfect choice!  There are a couple of criteria that we, as plastic surgeons, use to determine if a patient needs a lift or not.  If the nipple is below the level of the crease under the breast then a breast lift is probably necessary.  We also measure the distance from the small notch at the base of the throat to the nipple.  Ideally, this distance should be 18 - 22 centimeters.  Anything more than that probably means a breast lift is indicated.  There are several ways to do breast lifts and this should be discussed in consultation with the surgeon.  Some surgeons do breast augmentations at the same time as the breast lift and others prefer to do the augmentation at a second operation later one after the tissue has recovered.

Edwin C. Pound, III, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Breast Lift versus Breast Augmentation

Although there is some indication cross-over, a breast augmentation has a different goal than an uplift (mastopexy). Adding an implant to a breast is designed simply to make it larger. Generally it even has the same shape, but it is just larger. If the nipples are too low and there is sagging, an implant will make it larger, but with some minor exceptions, it will be a larger sagging breast with the nipple pointing downward. An abstract rule many plastic surgeons go by is, if the nipple is below the crease under the breast, an uplift is needed.

If the breasts sag and are also too small, both a mastopexy and an implants are usually indicated. Often a mastopexy without an implants leaves the upper aspect of the breast too flat after the swelling has subsided. Frequently an uplift is accompanied with a small implant to solve this problem. Or an uplift can be combined with fat grafts, which can be very effective.

Breast Lift versus Breast Augmentation

The best way to determine this is to have someone evaluate you.  With that said, a breast lift is generally indicated when you have significant glandular (breast) and/or nipple ptosis (sag).   Nipple ptosis is when the nipple sits at the level of the IM crease or lower. Breast ptosis is when the breast hangs over the crease.  A lift procedure can range from a simple nipple elevation technique (ellipse lift) to a more aggressive lollipop lift (Vertical Mastopex) with or without an implant. An experienced Plastic Surgeon will give you the best treatment option. As I tell my residents: "Anybody can perform a cosmetic breast procedure, but it takes experience to properly diagnosis and come up with a proper treatment plan."  A poor plan often times will lead to an unsatisfied patient.

Breast Lift vs. Breast Augmetation

It's a bit hard to make any determinations without photos.  Depending on the look you are going for and your current breast would be one factor.  Another factor would be if you have loose skin and excess tissue that would have to be removed. 

Are your concerns primarily over size or placement?

The question of whether you need a breast lift or breast augmentation is a very common concern, and one that’s difficult to answer without a physical evaluation. I generally ask my patients whether their current breast size is more of a concern for them, or if it’s the shape and placement of the breasts. Remember, breast implants will not change the position of your breasts, so If the nipples sit below the inframammary fold, you may need a breast lift. Combining procedures is another option that can accomplish the dual purpose of adding volume and giving you a perkier profile and firmer breast texture.

Breast Lift vs Breast Augmentation

Ah the million dollar question. 

Well there are several key factors to your question.  Number one is what the patient will be happy with.  Some patients will be ok with a "natural" looking breast that's just fuller and hence can "get away" with an augmentation (seldom the case) but others want a higher, tighter look and will be very disappointed with simply an augmentation. 

Next your doctors ability to guide you and make the correct diagnosis.  I can not tell you the number of patients I see for revisional breast surgery that hate their breasts because they are just larger but more saggy than before.  This is so classic...."lets try to get away with an augmentation rather than a lift".  As a doctor you have a responsibility to ask questions and figure out what the patient REALLY wants and then make the tough call.  Many doctors don't want to tell a young patient they need a lift because they are afraid they wont book and there is always a guy around the corner that will tell them what they want to hear.  Wrong.  You need to do whats right or do nothing.  So if a patients needs a lift and simply isn't ready for the exchange of some light scars for a better look than she should wait.  Trying to get away with it, often leads to a worse result in the long run.  Also keep in mind the augmentation may look amazing for 6 months but almost always bottoms out!

Therefore the answer is it DEPENDS.

Make sure your doctor will tell you the truth.

Hope that helps


Rady Rahban, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 60 reviews

Lift vs augmentation vs combination

This is a great question and one that we get asked quite a bit in my practice. As a general rule if you look in the mirror and see skin below the areola (the pigmented part) and the bottom of the breast then you could get away without a lift. If your nipple position is so low you cannot see skin, you just see areola, then you would require a lift as well. This being said there are many patients that are “on the fence” and could use a lift, but they do not want the scars yet. Many times, we use a slightly larger implant which can get a very small lift and it “buys them time” for a few years before a lift is needed.

Breast Augmentation OR Breast Lift OR Both?

A breast augmentation involves placing an implant either directly under the breast tissue or under the chest wall muscle.The intention of the breast augmentation is to increase the size of the breasts.When this is done, the skin of the breasts will become tighter.

A breast lift is a procedure whereby excess skin of the breast is removed, thereby tightening it and reshaping it.

If you simply want your breasts made tighter and your nipple moved to a higher location, then a breast lift would be the preferred operation.In this situation however, there is no increase in the overall size of the breast.In some cases, the naked breast will actually appear smaller.This change is due to the fact that excess skin has been removed and the breast has been re-compacted.The actual breast volume itself has not changed.

In cases of mild laxity of the breast skin, a breast augmentation may provide enough lift to correct the problem.In this situation, the breast itself will be enlarged in addition to tightening and lifting the breast.When it is obvious that a breast lift is necessary, many women prefer to have at least a small or medium size implant placed at the same time.Placement of the implant will allow for more fullness to remain in the upper portion of the breast and often leads to a firmer, more youthful looking appearance.A breast lift will resultin more external scarring than the breast augmentation alone.

If you are considering either of these two procedures, it is very important to consult a surgeon who is properly trained and experienced in all forms of breast enhancement surgery.A properly trained and experienced breast surgeon will properly analyze your situation and listen to your concerns.The best operative plan for you can then be made.

John J. Edney, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 90 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.