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Breast Reduction Complications

What risks and complications could I be facing from having breast reduction surgery?

Doctor Answers 22

Risks and complications of breast reduction

it is good that you think about surgical risks and potential complications of breast reduction.  There are several potential risks: 1) bleeding, 2) scar, 3) pain, 4) hematoma/seroma, 5) nipple sensation change/loss, 6) fat necrosis (hardening of breast tissue), 7) wound dehiscence (break down), 8) infection, 9)breast asymmetry, 10) removal of too much breast tissue or lack of, 11) revisional surgery.  These seem to be a lot of risks and potential complications and may sound scary.  However, these risks/complications are very low when done by experienced plastic surgeons.  Breast reduction can be done safely. Most patients who undergo breast reduction are very happy because their physical symptoms get relieved after the surgery and that they look better cosmetically as well.  

Complications after breast reduction surgery:

First, there are the complications after any surgery: bleeding, infection, unsatisfactory scars, skin sensation or color change, dimples, ridges, irregularities, subcutaneous firmness, asymmetry, need for re-operation, or more serious complications including, but not limited to, heart attack, stroke, blod clot, or even death. After telling patients this "heavy" list, I usually pause, take a breath, and add "You could also be hit by a bus before having your surgery and then you won't look good at the funeral home." A little lightening to a serious topic.

Specifically to breast reduction, I add the potential for skin loss or nipple/areola loss requiring prolonged bandages, skin graft, or additional revisional surgery, but this occurs mostly (but not always) in smokers. Do NOT have breast reduction, breast lift, facelift, or abdominoplasty (to name a few) if you continue to smoke, use tobacco in any form, or even use nicotine patches, spray, gum, or have exposure to second-hand smoke. This can cause irreversible loss of circulation in the healing skin, and the most sensitive areas can die, requiring the above list of re-dos. Also, there is about 15% chance of losing nipple/areola sensation, which is not a failing of the surgeon or technique, but related to the patient's anatomy. This must be understood and accepted prior to agreeing to this surgery.

All this being said, breast reduction surgery is excellent in the hands of a well-trained, board-certified plastic surgeon with experience in this procedure. Many of my happiest patients are breast reduction patients!

Richard H. Tholen, MD, FACS
Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 196 reviews

Breast Reduction Complications

Some of the risks and side effect that may result due to Breast Reduction include are:

  • Permanent loss of feeling of the nipples
  • Permanent scarring
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Infection
  • Delayed healing requiring dressings
  • Problems with nursing
  • Regrowth of excess breast tissue or drooping

To reduce your chances of any problems, choose a board certified plastic surgeon and be sure to follow your doctor's instructions carefully.

It is important that you are open and honest with your surgeon about any and all medical information.

Paul C. Zwiebel, MD
Denver Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

Risks associated with breast reduction

Depending upon who performs the surgery your down side is as follows:

1,  Loss of the nipple = total or partial

2.  Mild loss of skin

3.  Some loss of skin sensation

 4, Fat loss and asymmetry of the breasts  -size and placement upon the chest.

All of these complications are rare but they are dependent  upon the skill of your surgeon.

Gary H. Manchester, MD (retired)
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

Breast Reduction Complications

Risks associated with breast reduction:

anesthesia risks
blood clots
nipple sensation changes (numbness or increase in sensation)
wound separation

Complications & Areas of Concern Associated With Breast Reduction Surgery

         Although breast reduction surgery is generally considered a safe operative procedure, complications can occasionally occur. The vast majority of complications are the result of wound healing problems and can usually be managed without further surgical intervention.


         Areas of concern include bleeding, infection, anesthesia problems, seromas, pain, scarring, asymmetry, fat necrosis, decreased sensation and wound separation.


         Complications can be minimized by consulting a board certified plastic surgeon with experience performing this procedure. This procedure results in alleviation of symptoms and an improved quality of life.

Breast Reduction Complications

The specific risks and suitability of this procedure for a given individual can be determined only at the time of consultation. All surgical procedures have some degree of risk. Minor complications that do not affect the outcome occur occasionally. Major complications are rare. In general there are comlications that apply to surgery just about anywhere such as : excessive bleeding, unsightly scars, pain, fluid collection (seroma) beneath the skin, wound separation, infection,etc.

Then there are complications specific to the breast reduction such as: nipple sensation change/loss, fat necrosis (hardening of breast tissue), breast asymmetry, all of which may require revisional surgery.

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 76 reviews

Breast Reduction Complications

There are multiple possible complications to a breast reduction.  Fortunately, most patients have a very pleasant experience and are very happy with their results.  However, the possible complications include:  Nipple/areolar and skin sensation changes, asymmetry, scars, keloids, infection, fat necrosis, and others.

Paul Vitenas, Jr., MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 73 reviews

Breast Reduction Risks and Complications

Breast reduction carries the usual surgical risks of infection, bleeding, and complications of anesthesia. On rare occasions, there may be a slight difference in size from one breast to the other, or the nipple-areola complex will have some differences. For most breast reduction procedures, there will be incision scars around the nipple-areola complex down to the base of the breast, and along the bottom crease of the breast. Occasionally, sensation in the nipple and breast area is reduced. The feeling may not return for up to six months. Most women having breast reductions are unable to successfully breastfeed although there are exceptions.  However, going to a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon who uses an accredited surgery center or hospital, the risk of these complications is minimized.

Miguel Delgado, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 54 reviews

Breast Reduction Risks?

Thank you for the question.
Some of the risks/potential complications associated with breast reduction surgery include:  infection, bleeding, seroma, hematoma, wound healing problems, abnormal scarring ( hypertrophic or keloid),  loss of sensation, inability to breast-feed, breast asymmetry, necrosis of tissue or skin,  unsatisfactory cosmetic results, unpredictability of exact cup size postoperatively,  recurrence of the breast hypertrophy, and the potential for further surgery.  other risks  related to surgery in general include deep venous thrombosis (clots),  pulmonary embolism, pneumonia  and even death.
Fortunately, the majority of patients who undergo this procedure by well experienced board-certified plastic surgeons and board certified anesthesiologists do very well and complications tend  to be relatively minor and treatable. The severe complications are rare.
I hope this helps.

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.