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 54

Breast Reduction Recovery is Fast! Low Complication Rate!

Surgery can be scary!   It is important to understand the risks, and then, it's not so scary.  

Breast reduction patients routinely have surgery, recover quickly and celebrate freedom! From back pain, neck pain, shoulder strap indentation, rash and headaches. They are able to exercise better, sleep better, and breathe better. 

In a large outcome study, 98.7% of breast reduction patients were either Very Glad, or Glad that they had surgery.  

I perform about 100 breast reductions a year, and they are among my happiest patients!  

Breast reduction is usually an out patient surgery which takes about two hours.  Patients take pain medicine for 1-3 days and return to a desk job in an average of one week.  Patients are cleared for full activity at two weeks.   It is a Rapid Recovery procedure! 

So, what can go wrong?  Thankfully, the complication is low. Complications occur more often in patients at greater risk: smokers, diabetics, patients with obesity and scarring from previous breast surgery.  

Most common, a little 'scabby' healing, usually trivial, usually healed up in 2-3 weeks.  5-10% chance.  

Permanent nipple numbness. 1% 

Scars.  Some scarring is necessary, but with good scar management, they can be minimized.  Short scar techniques like No Vertical Scar and Lollipop techniques combined with aggressive scar treatments afterward, yield very many Happy patients.  

Bigger complications, like large skin loss and nipple loss, occur even less frequently, way less than 1% of the time.  Even with these rare complications, a reasonable result is usually still achieved. 

Breast Reduction Recovery

Thank you for your question.  There can be no guarantee that a complication will not occur.  There is risks with every surgery that is performed.  It is great that your seeing a board Certified Plastic Surgeon.  Breast reduction surgery are one of the most satisfying surgeries for patients.  See plenty of before and after photos and speak to your surgeon's patients who underwent a breast reduction to help you feel more at ease.  Best Wishes.

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 7 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 12 reviews

Breast Reduction Recovery

Breast reduction surgery tends to have a high patient satisfaction rate.  Not only are you able to eliminate symptoms such as neck and back pain in many cases, but also benefit from the aesthetic outcome.  I use the vertical breast reduction technique that avoids the bottom horizontal scar.  Since switching to this technique I have found that my patients have less pain postoperatively and are able to return to work within a couple of days with just over the counter pain medication as needed.  A supportive postoperative bra is worn for 4-6 weeks and regular exercise can resume in 4-6 weeks depending on the healing.

Quintessa Miller MD FACS
San Antonio Plastic Surgeon

Quintessa Miller, MD, FACS
Fort Walton Beach Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 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.

Bad Results With Breast Reduction

First, most surgeons put their best pictures up on the internet and many patients put their worst disasters on the internet. The end result is that you see the best 10% and the worst 10% but not the middle 80%. Breast reduction surgery has an exceptionally high satisfaction rate, higher than any other procedure that plastic surgeons do.  The reason is that results are immediate, improvement fitting into clothes and comfort walking around is often better only a few days after surgery than it was before surgery, and most people go through surgery without any complications.  Take some time to find a good plastic surgeon who does multiple variations of a breast reduction and who can match the procedure to your body. Find someone you trust and an office you feel comfortable in. Stay away from those who pressure you into surgery and DO NOT SMOKE before your operation.
Dr. Pyle

Jeremy Pyle, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

Breast Reduction Recovery

Thank you for your question. I applaud you on your thorough research about a breast reduction. Complications in breast reductions can occur, even to the most experienced breast surgeons. However, these can be minimized with careful attention to the "nipple's blood supply" as it is lifted and minimal tension on the closure. Remember that breast reductions also have the highest rate of satisfaction in plastic surgery. I recommend that you see 2-3 board certified plastic surgeons about your breast reduction.

Complications of Breast Reduction Surgery

Thank you for your question.  I am sorry to hear that your friend had some post-operative complications after her breast reduction surgery and I hope that she is doing well.  My first question would be is your friend a nicotine smoker or is she a diabetic?  The reason I ask is that nicotine is one of the leading factors that contributes to tissue necrosis and is closely followed by diabetes.  Patients who are active nicotine smokers or are diabetic have an increased risk of complications, especially wound healing complications.  

In my practice, patient satisfaction with their breast reduction procedure has been tremendous and I am a firm believer that appropriate followup care and patient compliance with post-operative instructions (and restrictions) greatly affects the patient's experience AND their surgical result.  My recommendation to you and anyone who is interested in having a breast reduction procedure is to make sure that you consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in breast reduction surgeries.  Many patients make the mistake of searching for the best deal, instead of focusing on surgeon experience, surgeon expertise and training.  Speak with your doctor about your concerns and be honest with the plastic surgeon you ultimately choose about your medical and social history (including any past or present nicotine use).  I hope this helps and best of luck!

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.