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Breast Reduction Surgery: Can It Help Improve the Quality of Life?

Breast reduction surgery, also known as reduction mammoplasty, is a surgical procedure to reduce breast size and alter breast shape. It is one of the most common procedures that plastic surgeons perform today, with more than 430,000 procedures performed in 2015 alone.

Key takeaways:

What are the benefits of smaller breasts?

There are several reasons to consider breast reduction surgery. The motivation for some is the belief that they will look better with smaller breasts. This set of patients includes men with larger breasts. However, people with large breasts are also at increased risk of shoulder and low back pain, as well as headaches, neck strain, and skin infections under the breasts. Many of these people pursue breast reduction to relieve pain or discomfort.

Women with oversized breasts suffer not only physical pain, but also often the psychological pain that accompanies harassment and poor self-image. These psychological consequences of oversized breasts are especially prevalent in young girls, whose breasts grow out of proportion with the rest of their bodies during puberty. Thus, breast reduction procedures are undertaken in those across a wide age range.

Breast reduction surgery – aesthetic and functional outcomes:

Breast reduction surgeries remove not only breast fat, but also skin and glandular tissue to accommodate the new positioning and shape of the breasts. The repositioning of nipple areola complex is also conducted during these procedures.

Newer techniques have been developed to address previous weaknesses in breast reduction procedures that were associated with the need for re-operation or with suboptimal outcomes like loss of nipple sensitivity or lactation capabilities.

Given that woman of all ages undergo breast reduction, maintaining the capability for breastfeeding is often a priority. Newer surgical approaches preserve the potential for lactation and successful breastfeeding in those of childbearing age. Women who are past the years of childbearing, for whom lactation is irrelevant, may be able to achieve successful breast reduction through liposuction alone.

Can smaller breasts improve quality of life?

Breast reduction is highly effective in reducing pain associated with oversized breasts. Other symptoms that have been reported to be successfully addressed through breast reduction are posture problems, difficulty breathing, and intertrigo — which is a skin inflammation that can occur due to friction under the breasts.

Patients also report improvements in their quality of life and psychosocial functioning following breast reduction surgery. This improvement, combined with the fact that women continue to report symptom relief 15 years after their surgery, contributes to the overwhelmingly high patient satisfaction that is observed with this procedure.

Complications of breast reduction surgery

Many of the complications related to breast reduction are aesthetic and involve improper shape, asymmetry, or permanent scars. Other complications, such as infections and hematomas, can also occur. In rare cases, nipple areola necrosis can occur, leading to the death of the nipple tissue. The risk of this complication is higher in patients who smoke. With the rise in obesity rates, the risk of complications is expected to increase, and research is underway on how to enhance safety in potentially more vulnerable patients.

Breast reduction is a commonly performed surgical procedure that is effective, relatively safe, and associated with significantly high rates of patient satisfaction. When successful, the procedure can improve pain, achieve desired cosmetic outcomes, and maintain breast functioning.



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