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 48

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. 


Ann Arbor Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 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 Recovery

One of the most common causes for a prolonged recovery and complications are when patients do not follow their post-op indications. It tends to happen that patients feel very good after surgery and that can be very deceiving, even if you are feeling like have had nothing done you did and need to very cautious and still follow the instructions your plastic surgeon gives you, a bad movement can put your surgery at risk and ultimately cause a bad outcome. Also what does contribute is your genes patients you tend to not scar well is not the Doctor's fault it is just how their body heals. Just follow your indications and go to your follow-ups do what your Plastic Surgeon recommends and you should be good.

Luis Suarez, MD
Mexico Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 31 reviews

Recovery after breast reduction surgery

In general, breast reduction surgery, if the patient is an appropriate candidate, is a safe and very common procedure. Your surgeon should provide you with detailed post-operative instructions to make the healing process go as smoothly as possible. There are things that can increase a patient's risks including smoking and diabetes, therefore it is very important to have an honest discussion with your surgeon about your health and lifestyle during your breast reduction consultation. I strongly recommend consulting with a board certified plastic surgeon who has experience with breast reduction procedures. Ask to see before and after pictures during your consultation and possibly even speak with a patient who had the procedure done. Ultimately, you should feel confident with your surgeon and your decision before going in to your breast reduction surgery.

Jimmy S. Firouz, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Breast Reduction Recovery

Breast reduction surgery usually generally has a low complication rate and short recovery. Back to work can be as early as 2 weeks. Swelling should subside within 6 weeks and get better ever week after that. In very large breast reductions, vascularity can become an issue that can cause would complications such as fat or nipple necrosis. Diabetes and smoking can also increase complications in such surgery. 

Good luck with your breast reduction. 

Sincerely,

Dr Hani Sinno

Hani Sinno, MD
Montreal Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 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 8 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 6 reviews

Breast Reduction recovery

Recovery from breast reduction surgery has definitely gotten better in the last 20 years. Most of our patients will have a reduction as an outpatient ( unless they choose to spend the night or have a medical condition that makes it safer to spend the night).. Most patients can drive in a 3-5 days and will return to work in about a week, depending on their job. Every week they are doing more ( and more comfortably after a reduction) until they are back full time in the gym around a month.

G. Wesley Price, MD
Chevy Chase Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

Breast Reduction complications

No one can assure you nothing will go wrong, but this is an elective surgery and PSs would not perform this procedure if things went wrong all the time. Choose a surgeon that has been in practice and has photos and patients to refer you to allow you to be come more familiar with their work and satisfied patients. Wound healing problems along incision do occur in breast reductions that require local would care. Large tissue loss and loss of Nipple areolar complex is rare. No smoking is a great rule to adhere to in this procedure. With your high level of concern you might not be the perfect candidate for this procedure…..but I will say my patients that are similar with anxiety are usually very very happy they went thru the procedure with their new smaller lifted breast with reduction of their pain.

David Liland, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Breast Reduction Recovery

Thank you so much for your question.

The way to minimize the risk of any complication is to control those factors that we have control over. In other words, this may include preliminary weight loss, adequate selection of the patient, and choosing the appropriate technique. And the surgery should be performed by a board certified and well-qualified surgeon.

All of these things combined help provide a good outcome with minimal complications. There are some complications that are unavoidable under the best of hands. We just need to be aware of which fall into each category.

Likewise, following postoperative instructions is very important.

ISAPS is a good organization. But here, locally, we look more towards The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).

Hope this helps.

Glynn Bolitho, PhD, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 11 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.