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Breast Lift Surgery (Mastopexy) - What You Need to Know

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Updated March 05, 2009

What Is a Mastopexy:

Also known as a breast lift, a mastopexy raises and firms the breasts by removing excess skin and tightening and repositioning the surrounding tissue to create a more youthful and pleasing breast contour. A breast lift can also reduce the size of areolas which have become enlarged over time.

What breast lift surgery cannot do is significantly change the size of your breasts. For this reason, breast lift surgery is often performed in conjunction with a breast augmentation or breast reduction.

Who Can Benefit From A Breast Lift:

Breast lift surgery can be helpful for patients who:

  • are bothered by the feeling that your breasts sag, or have lost substance or firmness
  • have breasts that are pendulous or which have a flatter, elongated shape (especially without volume)
  • have nipples that point downward or fall below the breast crease when the breast is unsupported
  • have stretched skin and/or enlarged areolas
  • have breasts which are positionally asymmetrical (one breast lower than the other)

Who Is a Good Candidate:

The best candidates for a breast lift are non-smokers who are in generally good health and maintain a stable weight. It is also important for the patient to have a positive outlook and realistic expectations about outcome.

Although a mastopexy can be performed at any age, surgeons usually recommend waiting until breast development has stopped. Some surgeons also recommend waiting until a woman is done having children, since pregnancy and breastfeeding may have significant and unpredictable effects on the size and shape of your breasts. Still, many women decide to undergo breast lift surgery before having children.

Pre-Operative Considerations:

Your surgeon will usually order pre-op lab tests to confirm your health status. He may also require that you adjust, stop, or begin taking certain medications in the week or two before your surgery, including avoiding aspirin, many anti-inflammatory drugs, and herbal supplements, for 2 weeks prior to surgery.

Your surgeon will want to know about any family history of breast cancer and results of previous mammograms or biopsies. He will examine your breasts and may take photos and measurements of the size and position of your breasts, nipples, and areolas. You may even be asked to get a mammogram.

Recovery & Downtime:

Most patients can return to non-strenuous work after 10 days. Strenuous work or exercise should not be resumed until at least 3 to 4 weeks have passed, and sexual activity should be avoided for a minimum of 1 to 2 weeks. After that, you should continue to be extremely gentle with your breasts for at least the next several weeks. As with all surgery, it is important to understand that these guidelines can vary widely based on the patient’s personal health, the techniques used, and other variable factors surrounding the surgery. Any severe pain should be reported to your doctor.

Risks and Complications:

Risks and possible complications include: unfavorable scarring, excessive bleeding or hematoma, skin loss (tissue death), blood clots, anesthesia risks, skin discoloration, persistent edema (swelling), asymmetry, temporary or even permanent loss of sensation in the nipples, unsatisfactory aesthetic results, or recurrent looseness or sagging of skin.

After surgery, call your surgeon immediately if any of the following occur: chest pain, shortness of breath, unusual heartbeats, excessive bleeding.

Costs:

The average total cost of a breast lift varies from $3,500 to $6,000, but the range can be as wide as $1,500 to $8,000. The discrepancies in cost have to do with the complexity of the procedure, your surgeon’s skills, qualifications, and reputation, and on the geographical area. Total costs include your surgeon’s fee, anesthesia fees, facility fees, lab fees, and medications.

Complementary Procedures:

Breast lift surgery is often done in conjunction with other surgeries to enhance the patient’s results. Besides breast augmentation and breast reduction, breast lifts are often performed together with a tummy tuck, liposuction, or other body lifting procedures like an arm lift, thigh lift, butt lift, or even full body lift.

Seeing Your Results:

Swelling should subside within 2 to 4 weeks, but the shape of the breast will continue to settle and refine for 1 to 3 months. Your new breast shape should remain constant provided you do not lose or gain significant weight. However, gravity will eventually take its toll, so a future second lift may be desired.

Some breast lift incision lines are obscured in the natural crease underneath the breast, or by the border of the areola. However, other scars may be visible on surface of the breast. Although they are permanent, scars will fade and improve over time, continuing to flatten and fade for up to 1 year.

How It's Done:

  1. Anesthesia Is Administered

    Medications are given for your comfort during the surgical procedure. Often, a general anesthetic is administered, so that you will be asleep throughout the procedure. However, a breast lift may also be performed using a combination of local anesthesia and intravenous sedation. Your surgeon will recommend the best choice for you.

  2. Incisions Are Made

    Breast lift incision patterns vary depending on the amount of excess skin and position of the nipples as well as patient and surgeon preference. You and your surgeon will determine which incision type will work best for your needs. The different incision patterns and techniques used in breast lift surgery are detailed here: Breast Lift Techniques Explained.

  3. The Breast Is Reshaped

    After your surgeon makes the incisions, the breast tissue is repositioned and reshaped, and excess skin is surgically removed. Then the nipple and areola are repositioned to a natural, more youthful height. (Note that the nipples and areolas usually remain attached to underlying mounds of tissue, and this usually allows for the preservation of sensation and the ability to breastfeed.) If needed, the size of the areola can be reduced by excising skin around the perimeter.

  4. Incisions Are Closed

    After your breasts are reshaped and excess skin is removed, the remaining skin is tightened as the incisions are closed. Sutures are layered deep within the breast tissue to support the newly shaped breasts, along with the possible use of skin adhesives and/or surgical tape to help close and support the skin.

  5. Post-Op Care and Instructions

    After surgery, you will be taken to a recovery area where you will be monitored by surgical staff. In some cases, small tubes will be placed in your breasts to help drain excess fluid. Additionally, dressings may be placed on your breasts and then covered with an elastic bandage or surgical bra. Usually, you will be permitted to go home after a few hours. However, in some cases, your surgeon may determine that you need to stay in the facility overnight. If you are going home, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you to and from surgery and to stay with you for at least 24 hours.

Sources:

Breast Lift, Consumer Information Sheet, American Society for Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery; http://www.surgery.org/public/procedures/breast_lift

Breast Lift, Consumer Information Sheet, American Society of Plastic Surgeons; http://www.plasticsurgery.org/patients_consumers/procedures/Mastopexy.cfm

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