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 (39)

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.

Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 152 reviews

Breast Reduction Normally Surprisingly Easy


Many patients share your concerns, but the occurrence of complications is fortunately small.

There are factors that can increase risk, like smoking, obesity, and diabetes.

During consultation, discuss your concerns directly and openly with your surgeon to determine whether your surgery carries more than average risk.

No surgeon can guarantee surgery without complications or a specific result.  Even the best experts experience complications.  It does help to choose an experienced and well qualified surgeon with a known reputation for excellence in breast reduction.

Paul C. Zwiebel, MD
Denver Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

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.

Richard J. Bruneteau, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 90 reviews



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 40 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.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 794 reviews

Breast Reduction Recovery


For the vast majority of patients, the breast reduction procedure may creat tremendous satisfaction. However, patient selection is key.  During the consultation process, the board certified plastic surgeon must understand your needs, desires, lifestyle, medical condition and medical history before determing if a patient would make a good candidate.  

Kris M. Reddy, MD, FACS
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 18 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 18 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
4.5 out of 5 stars 3 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.

Gary Lawton, MD, FACS
San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 23 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
Bethesda Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 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.