Breast Reduction Recovery

I want to have a breast reduction surgery, but after seeing pictures of patients whose operation went very wrong, I got worried and discouraged. Why do some patients who have breast reduction surgery end up with dead tissue and really awful wounds? How can you prevent that? Is it the doctor's fault? If the operation goes great and the patient follows the post operation treatment correctly, can still this happen? If the doctor I'm seeing is a member of the ISAPS, can I be assured that he won't do anything wrong? Please, I'm really really worried.

Doctor Answers 43

Recovery Process Following Breast Reduction

         Breast reduction is a commonly performed procedure that is associated with high satisfaction rates. This procedure improves quality of life and alleviates symptoms associated with breast hypertrophy.
         It’s important to remember that recovery varies from patient to patient. The vast majority of patients have uneventful recoveries, but occasionally patients do have complications. These are usually related to problems with wounds healing and occur for a variety of reasons.
         Breast reduction not only makes the breast smaller but lifts the breast into a normal position. This requires the development of skin flaps and the removal of excess skin. These skin flaps, occasionally have compromised blood supply which can lead to wound healing problems.
         Infection, obesity, diabetes and cigarette smoking have all been shown to adversely impact blood flow to skin flaps and are associated with wound healing problems. Every effort should be made to minimize the impact of these risk factors. This will ultimately result in fewer wound healing problems and less scarring.
         It’s also important to make sure that your surgeon has experience performing breast reduction and is board certified in plastic surgery. Scarring in inevitable with any surgical procedure, but with proper care this can be minimized following breast reduction surgery.

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Most breast reduction patients heal well and quickly after their procedure.  Absence of complications is the usual case although some minor complications may occur.  Comormidities  such as smoking, obesity, and  diabetes cause an increase in complications.

Paul Vitenas, Jr., MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

Complications after Breast Reduction?

Thank you for the question.
On the one hand, complications after breast reduction surgery are rare  and mostly relatively minor.
On the other hand, complications can occur in the best of surgeons' hands. Membership in specific societies does not necessarily guarantee complication free surgery.
The best that you can to is to do your due diligence in  surgeon selection.
Best wishes.

Breast reduction recovery

Most patients do quite well after a breast reduction procedure. The surgery involves removing breast tissue, fatty tissue and skin with no involvement of the muscle, which makes for a relatively smooth recovery. Most patients will take 3-4 days off work, during which time they will take narcotics before transitioning to tylenol. A surgical bra ( no underwire) will be worn for four weeks after surgery prior to a regular bra.

Activities with the arms should be minimized for the first week or so, but soon after surgery, most patients can have full range of motion of their arms and resume most regular activities. Remember, this is a much different recovery than a breast augmentation for example, where the pectoral(chest) muscle is divided and needs several weeks/months to heal.

Please consult with a board certified plastic surgeon for more information regarding breast reduction surgery and its recovery.

William Bruno, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 172 reviews

Multiple reasons

Breast reduction surgery is very common and any major complications are low. The wound problems you are seeing can be minimized decreasing the amount of breast tissue that is removed, no smoking for three months before and 1 mo after the surgery.

Even under the most expert hands problems with wound healing can occur in breast reduction surgery as any surgery. If you see a plastic surgeon who says he does not have any of these problems then he is not being truthful with you.

Ultimately the operation is very safe AND patients are extremely happy with the way they look and feel.

John P. Stratis, MD
Harrisburg Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Complications after breast reduction surgery

The vast majority of breast reduction operations are able to be performed without significant complications. A very important part of your consultation for breast reduction surgery should include your plastic surgeon discussing the risks you take by undergoing such an operation. You should expect that your medical problems will be discussed, a detailed description of the operation that is recommended and the risks that accompany such an operation. There are many factors that plastic surgeons consider when counselling patients whether they are good candidates or not. Excellent candidates have fewer postoperative complications, but do not have zero risk. Sometimes patients have complications regardless of being in excellent health, an excellent candidate and taken care of by an excellent and skilled surgeon. 

Rachel Streu, MD
Ann Arbor Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

Breast reduction complications

You have valid concerns since no surgery is without risks no matter how minor. However, in addition to having a highly qualified plastic surgeon who does surgery at an accredited facility, you should know that some patients do worse than others because of certain risk factors. For example, smokers and diabetics often have wound healing complications. In fact, some surgeons do not operate on those patients unless the benefits of the surgery medically outweigh the risks. Your plastic surgeon will weigh your risks and decides whether or not you are a candidate for the operation. It is the expectation that a board-certified plastic surgeon has the highest regard for your safety and for minimizing your risks for complications. There are always some unknowns in any surgery, but breast reductions are one of the most commonly performed surgeries that we do and most of the time have minimal or no issues.

Orna Fisher, MD
Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Breast Reduction Surgery is Safe

The overwhelming majority of breast reduction operations are done without complications and the recovery is relatively easy and smooth for the patients. When you look at the internet, you will see a disproportionate number of problems and complications (regardless of what surgery is involved) because the vast majority of patients that do well don't post it on the internet.

Although all procedures carry potential risks and complications and problems do occasionally happen (smokers for example are at higher risk), most patients do quite well. Seek the consultation of a plastic surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. They have a website listing all the certified plastic surgeons.  Members of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery will all be board certified in plastic surgery and have demonstrated an interest and competence in cosmetic plastic surgery as well.

Alexander G. Nein, MD
Nashville Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

Breast reduction surgery complications

Breast reduction surgery removes a large amount of tissue: anywhere from 1-4+ lbs of tissue per side.  When the remaining tissue does not have adequate blood flow, healing problems can occur.  These might range from a small area that is slow to heal, all the way up to losing a nipple.  The major risk factors for healing problems are:
  1. Smoking
  2. Diabetes
  3. Very large breast size
If you have very large breasts, your surgeon may recommend a free nipple reduction, where the nipple is taken off the breast and put back on as a skin graft.  This ensures good blood flow to the nipple in its new position.  

I require my patients to quit smoking before reduction surgery to help minimize risks due to smoking.

Good management of diabetes can help decrease risks as well.  This is evaluated by looking at the hemoglobin A1c level.

In addition, ask your surgeon how many breast reductions he or she does a year, as well as his/her complication rate.  This should give you a better idea of your individual risk of complications after breast reduction surgery.

Jennifer Greer, MD
Cleveland Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Recovery from Breast Reduction

A properly performed breast reduction by a board certified plastic surgeon with many years of experience in cosmetic surgery and thousands of patients can result in a beautiful outcome with minimal discomfort.  The procedure is done in an outpatient surgery center, and the patient can return to work at one week.  Pain is minimal though pain medicine is provided.  It takes about a month before one can resume exercise.  Surgery can go wrong for many reasons.  If the surgeon is not properly qualified, one is just asking for trouble.  If the patient smokes or engages in physical activity prior to the recommended recovery, the patient can contribute to a bad outcome.  Overall, it is a safe operation with high patient satisfaction rates.

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.