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While many people might be surprised to hear that some women are burdened by overly large breasts, the reality is that for many women, the downsides of having a very large cup size far outweigh the benefits.

Back and neck pain, poor posture, difficulty exercising, irritation, difficulty finding clothing that fits, and self-consciousness are all potential reasons a woman might consider breast reduction surgery.

Breast reduction surgery (reduction mammoplasty) is used to remove excess fat, glandular tissue, and skin from the breast to reduce overall cup size. The results of breast reduction can be quite dramatic. Patients typically feel better as the sense of heaviness subsides, and shoulder, back, and neck pain are reduced. Not only do patients feel better, but the breasts becomes more uplifted, shapely, and bras and clothing fit better.

Patients who exhibit certain symptoms and who need a certain amount of breast tissue removed may qualify for insurance coverage.

There are often strict requirements that must be met in order to have the procedure reimbursed, therefore it is important to discuss these with your insurance company. It is common for smaller reductions to be done purely for cosmetic purposes and therefore are not covered by insurance.

Breast Reduction Consultation

During your consultation, you will discuss many different aspects of the breast reduction procedure with one of our skilled plastic surgeons at our Emory Aesthetic Center in Atlanta, GA. The first step in the process will be to discuss your goals for the surgery and determine how much breast tissue should be removed for your comfort and self-esteem. If you have been referred to a plastic surgeon by your doctor, our surgeon will discuss your doctor’s thoughts on your breast reduction plans.

Your consultation is a valuable opportunity to communicate your goals and concerns, ask specific questions about your case, and get to know our highly qualified surgeons. You will also have your candidacy assessed to make sure you are healthy enough to undergo the procedure. Any additional procedures you may want to combine with a breast reduction will also be discussed at this time.

Breast Reduction Candidates

While a breast reduction is appropriate for many women with large breasts, it is not a suitable surgery for everyone. Good candidates for the procedure are women with very large, heavy breasts relative to their frame, causing problems like back and neck pain, poor posture, or extreme self-consciousness. Patients should be in good health, with no disqualifying health issues, or unsafe habits like smoking, which can compromise the effectiveness of the procedure. In addition, patients should have realistic expectations for the outcome of the surgery and be aware of the limitations of the procedure. Patients who exhibit certain symptoms and who need a certain amount of tissue removed may qualify for insurance coverage of the procedure; however, it is common for smaller reductions to be done purely for cosmetic purposes and therefore are not covered by insurance.

Breast Reduction Procedure

Because breast reduction is a major surgical procedure, patients will be put under general anesthesia for comfort and safety. Breast reduction is typically performed as an outpatient procedure and takes two to three hours to complete on average.

Incisions are made around the areola (area surrounding the nipple) and extended down in a straight line to the bottom of the breast. For breast reductions involving a large amount of volume or extremely saggy breasts, an additional incision in the crease of the breast will also be made. Once these incisions are made, excess fat, skin, and breast gland tissue are removed, and the breast is tightened, lifted, and contoured.

Breast Reduction Recovery

Following breast reduction surgery, patients will need to take it easy for the first several days, and often patients may feel able to return to work after 7-10 days. In most instances, absorbable sutures are used in the procedure so suture removal is typically not necessary. During the initial recovery period and for several weeks after, strenuous activities, especially involving the upper body, must be avoided or restricted, although light exercise is encouraged as tolerated. Patients will need to wear a special bra to help support the breasts throughout the healing process. Swelling will subside gradually over a period of months, but patients can see preliminary results in a month or two following surgery, and relief of some symptoms is often nearly immediate.

Breast Reduction FAQs

  • Will breast reduction fix my back pain and posture?

    Though there are no guarantees that your chronic back and neck pain will cease following surgery, the removal of a significant amount of volume from the breasts does generally alleviate a great deal of back and neck pain in breast reduction patients. This is often one of the main goals of the procedure, and patients should notice a difference right away. Posture is something that will require attention and effort on your part after the procedure, as you will have to re-train your body to have better overall posture. Breast reduction does make it easier to maintain good posture, since you will have to hold up less weight overall.

  • Could insurance cover my breast reduction?

    Because excessively large and heavy breasts can cause health problems for women who have them, there are many insurance companies that will cover the breast reduction cost. However, there are often strict requirements that must be met in order to have the procedure reimbursed, including back/neck pain caused by the breasts, patient’s weight, amount of reduction that will be performed, and a letter from the primary care physician. If you are seeking breast reduction coverage, be sure you understand all the policies and requirements before you move forward.

  • Will a breast reduction make my breasts look more youthful?

    Breast reduction does not simply remove volume—the procedure also combines some techniques from a breast lift as well. In addition to making the breast smaller, lighter, and firmer, the breasts tend to look more “perky” and lifted after reduction surgery, since there is less tissue sagging and pulling the breasts down. The size of the areolas is also reduced, and with the contouring of the breast performed during the reduction surgery, breasts tend to have more lift and a youthful appearance after the operation.

  • Are there breast reduction pills that work?

    While some manufacturers do make breast reduction pills that claim to reduce the size of overly large breasts by targeting the fat cells in the area, these claims are largely unsubstantiated, and the products are a waste of money. Breasts are made up of more than just fat, and surgery is the only effective treatment for permanently reducing and reshaping the breasts by removing excess skin, fat, and breast gland tissue. At this time, there is no effective breast reduction without surgery.

  • Can breast reduction fix asymmetry?

    Absolutely. Reduction surgery contours and lifts the breasts, while removing fat, skin, and gland tissue as needed to achieve the desired aesthetic results. This process is customized to each patient, meaning that women with asymmetrical breasts can have tissue removed to make the breasts appear both smaller and more symmetrical.

  • What are the risks of breast reduction?

    Plastic surgery is generally very safe when performed by a qualified board-certified plastic surgeon, but there is always a small risk for complications. It is important for patients to be aware of these risks and keep an eye out for any problems during recovery. Some potential complications associated with breast reduction include:

    • Bleeding
    • Anesthesia complications
    • Prominent scarring
    • Infection
    • Poor healing
    • Poor aesthetic outcome/irregularities
    • Skin discoloration
    • Nerve damage
    • Fluid accumulation
    • Loss of nipple or areolar tissue
    • Open wounds
  • Will there be any visible scars from breast reduction?

    Because of the way the procedure is performed, there will be some visible scarring following breast reduction surgery. However, breast reduction scars will fade to become less prominent over the first year or so after surgery. Breast reduction scarring will often be located around the areola (skin surrounding the nipple), extending straight down underneath the breast, and may be more extensive depending on the amount of volume to be removed. Our surgeons will always use techniques that involve the least amount of scarring possible and will discuss the specifics of the incisions with you during your consultation.

  • How do I know how much volume should be removed?

    You and your surgeon will discuss your desired cup size and breast appearance. This will allow the surgeon to determine how much volume will be removed. Some insurance companies do have a minimum amount of volume that must be removed to qualify for coverage, but this number varies. It’s usually best to focus on what you want out of surgery than the actual amount of breast tissue to be removed.

  • When will I see the final results of breast reduction?

    Because all surgery produces swelling, you will have to be patient when it comes to seeing the final results of your breast reduction surgery. For the first few weeks of breast reduction recovery, your breasts will be swollen and the incisions will not be healed, making it seem like your breasts are still quite large. Over the next few months, the swelling will subside, and you will be able to see final results within 6-12 months.

  • Will a breast reduction affect my ability to breastfeed?

    While the loss of the ability to breastfeed is a common concern for women considering any type of breast surgery, some women are able to breastfeed following breast reduction. There is always a small risk that breast surgery will affect breastfeeding, but our Atlanta plastic surgeons do everything they can to preserve both the aesthetics and function of the breasts.

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