Breast Reduction Mammoplasty (Breast Reduction)
Surgeons performed more than 144,374 breast reductions (reduction mammoplasties) in 2004, a slight decrease of 2 percent from 2003, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Of all body image changes, patients report that breast reduction results in the quickest results. Breast reduction can change the size, weight, firmness, and shape of breasts. To remove skin and breast tissue, the surgeon usually makes an incision extending down from the areola (the colored area around the nipple) to the crease where the breast meets the torso. The surgeon then makes a U-shaped incision in the crease under the breast. After excess fat, tissue, and skin are removed, the surgeon pulls together the skin from both sides of the breast. Nipples sometimes must be removed and repositioned and the incisions are sutured. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia and lasts about two to four hours. Patients usually require a one- or two-night stay in the hospital, while some can be done as outpatient procedures.
"Breast reduction patients as a group are the happiest patients in plastic surgery," says surgeon Gary S. Berger of New York City. "Most cosmetic surgical procedures deal with self image issues alone, whether it's hip contour, small breast size, or the aging face. These are nonfunctional problems. Patients who undergo true breast reduction will also be addressing medical issues -- back pain, neck pain, rashes under their breasts, arm problems. So while breast reduction is a contouring procedure -- creating more appropriately sized breasts for a particular body shape -- it also solves many medical problems. These patients are the happiest because as soon as the surgery is over, the large weight they've carried around is gone."
Pain Level/Recovery Time: After surgery, the incisions are covered in gauze and the breasts are wrapped in an elastic bandage or surgical bra. In some cases, a small tube is placed in each breast to drain blood and fluid for the first day or two. Stitches are removed in one to three weeks. Most women experience some breast pain for the first few days, and then mild discomfort for another week. Swelling and bruising may last for several weeks. Taking pain relievers and wearing a surgical bra, a garment that offers soft support and compression, 24 hours a day may help reduce the discomfort and swelling. Most women can return to their usual routine within one or two weeks, provided they avoid strenuous activity or heavy lifting. Scars, which are considered permanent, are usually well concealed in areas covered by a bra or bathing suit. They usually fade over time. Although most swelling and bruising disappear within six weeks, many women will find that it may take six months to a year before their breasts settle into their new shape.
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