Understanding the Risks and Potential Side Effects of Breast Reduction Surgery
Breast reduction surgery is a procedure performed for both aesthetic and functional purposes. Having smaller breasts that are more proportional to the rest of the body is achievable with this procedure. While it is generally safe and effective, as with any surgery, there are potential risks and complications. In this blog, we will discuss the most common breast reduction complications that patients may experience, including both short-term and long-term issues.
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What Is Breast Reduction Surgery?
Breast reduction surgery is a medical procedure that aims to reduce the size of a woman’s breasts. This surgery is typically performed to alleviate physical discomfort caused by breasts that are too large for a woman’s body. The procedure involves removing excess breast tissue, fat, and skin to achieve a more proportionate breast size. This surgery is often recommended for women who experience back, neck, or shoulder pain, as well as for those who have difficulty finding properly fitting bras, clothing, or participating in physical activity.
During the breast reduction surgery, your surgeon will make incisions in the breast tissue and remove the excess tissue and skin. The nipple and areola will also be repositioned to create a more natural-looking breast shape. The surgery usually takes between two to four hours and is performed under general anaesthesia. Recovery time varies depending on the patient and the extent of the surgery, but most women can expect to return to work within a week or two.
Breast reduction surgery is a safe and effective way to reduce the size of a woman’s breasts. It is important to choose a specialist plastic surgeon with experience in breast reduction surgery to ensure the best possible outcome. Patients should also be aware that scarring is a normal side effect of the procedure, although incisions are often placed in areas that are hidden by clothing. If you are considering breast reduction surgery, it is important to discuss the risks and benefits with your surgeon and to have realistic expectations for the results.
Where are the scars placed for Breast Reduction Surgery Video
Potential Complications of Breast Reduction Surgery
While breast reduction surgery is generally safe and effective, as with any surgical procedure, there are potential risks and complications to be aware of. Some common complications of breast reduction surgery may include pain, swelling, bruising, changes in nipple sensation or position, scarring, and wound healing issues. In rare cases, more serious complications such as infection, bleeding, blood clots, or problems with anaesthesia can occur. There is also a risk of damage to the milk ducts or glands, which can affect breastfeeding. It’s important to discuss these potential risks with your surgeon before the procedure and to follow all post-operative instructions carefully to minimise the risk of complications. In case you experience any concerning symptoms after surgery, contact your surgeon immediately.
Haematoma and Seroma
Haematoma and seroma are potential complications that can occur after breast reduction surgery. A haematoma is a build-up of blood that forms under the skin and can cause swelling, pain, and discomfort. A seroma is a collection of fluid that can accumulate in the area where the breast tissue was removed. Seroma and haematoma can occur due to bleeding during surgery or from blood vessels that continue to bleed after the surgery. Treatment may involve draining the fluid or blood from the affected area and taking steps to prevent further bleeding or fluid accumulation. In some cases, a surgery may be necessary to remove the haematoma or seroma. It’s important to follow all post-operative instructions carefully and to report any concerning symptoms to your surgeon immediately to minimise the risk of these complications.
Infection can occur after breast reduction surgery. While the risk of infection is relatively low, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms in case they occur. Symptoms of infection can include redness, swelling, warmth, tenderness, and drainage or pus from the incision site. In some cases, fever and chills may also be present. Infections can occur due to bacteria entering the incision site during or after surgery, and can be more common in patients who have other medical conditions or who smoke. Treatment may involve antibiotics, drainage of any fluid or pus, and careful monitoring to prevent the infection from spreading. Make sure to report any concerning symptoms to your surgeon immediately, as early treatment may help prevent more serious complications from occurring.
Delayed Wound Healing
Delayed wound healing is another potential complication that can occur after breast reduction surgery. It happens when the incision site takes longer than usual to heal, leaving a larger scar or causing other problems such as infection. Several factors can contribute to delayed wound healing, including poor blood flow to the incision site, infection, smoking, obesity, and other medical conditions such as diabetes or autoimmune disorders. In some cases, the surgeon’s techniques or post-operative care may also contribute to delayed wound healing. Patients can minimise their risk of this complication by keeping the incision site clean and dry, avoiding smoking and other factors that can impair healing, and staying in close communication with their surgeon if any concerning symptoms develop.
Changes in Nipple Sensation
Changes in nipple sensation are a common occurrence after breast reduction surgery. This can happen because the surgery involves removing breast tissue and repositioning the nipple to achieve a more proportional appearance. As a result, the nerves that supply sensation to the nipple may be damaged or cut during the procedure. In some cases, the nipple may become numb or lose sensation completely. In other cases, patients may experience increased sensitivity or tingling sensations. While these changes in sensation can be concerning, it’s important to note that they are usually temporary and tend to improve over time as the nerves heal. In rare cases, permanent changes in nipple sensation may occur. In most cases, any changes in nipple sensation are outweighed by the benefits of breast reduction surgery in terms of improved comfort, function, and aesthetics.
Breast asymmetry is a potential complication that can occur after breast reduction surgery. This happens when one breast appears larger or different in shape or position than the other. There are several factors that can contribute to breast asymmetry after surgery, including variations in the amount of breast tissue removed from each breast, differences in the way that each breast heals and responds to surgery, and differences in the natural shape and position of each breast before surgery.
Scarring is an inevitable consequence after any surgical intervention. The extent of scarring depends on the technique used during the surgery and the individual’s healing process. In general, breast reduction surgery involves incisions around the areola, down the centre of the breast, and sometimes along the breast crease. Over time, these scars can fade and become less noticeable, but they may never completely disappear.
Loss of Breast Tissue
Loss of breast tissue is a rare complication that can occur after breast reduction surgery. This can happen when the blood supply to the remaining breast tissue is compromised during the surgery, leading to tissue death. The risk of this complication is higher in patients who smoke or have poor circulation. It can also occur if too much breast tissue is removed during the surgery.
The loss of breast tissue can occur immediately after surgery or several months later during the healing process.
The nerves that supply sensation to the breasts can be damaged during the surgery, leading to numbness or altered sensation in the breast, nipple, or areola. The extent of nerve damage depends on the technique used during the surgery, the amount of breast tissue removed, and the patient’s healing process. In some cases, the nerve damage may be temporary and resolve on its own within a few weeks or months. However, in other cases, the damage may be permanent and result in chronic numbness or altered sensation.
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How to Reduce the Risk of Breast Reduction Complications?
Breast reduction surgery is generally safe, but like any surgery, it carries some risks. However, there are steps that you can take to reduce the risk of complications and ensure a smoother recovery.
- It is important to choose a qualified and experienced surgeon who is experienced in performing breast reduction procedures. You should research the surgeon’s credentials and reputation, and schedule a consultation to discuss the procedure and any potential risks.
- You should also disclose your full medical history, including any underlying health conditions, medications, and supplements, to the surgeon. This information can help the surgeon determine if you are a good candidate for the procedure.
- Prior to the surgery, you should follow the surgeon’s preoperative instructions carefully, which may include stopping certain medications, avoiding smoking and alcohol, and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.
- During the recovery period, you should follow the surgeon’s postoperative instructions, including taking any prescribed medications, wearing a supportive bra, and avoiding strenuous activities and heavy lifting for several weeks.
- It is also important to attend all follow-up appointments with the surgeon to monitor the healing process and detect any potential complications early on.
FAQs about Breast Reduction Complications
Are there common problems after breast reduction surgery?
- Common problems after breast reduction surgery may include pain, swelling, bruising, changes in sensation or nipple position, scarring, and wound healing issues. In rare cases, complications such as infection, bleeding, blood clots, or problems with anaesthesia can occur.
What is and isn’t normal after breast reduction?
- The recovery after breast reduction can vary depending on the individual and the specific surgical techniques used. However, some common experiences after breast reduction surgery include swelling, bruising, discomfort, changes in sensation, and drainage from the incision site. It is normal to have some degree of asymmetry or unevenness in the breasts immediately after surgery, but this should improve with time as the healing process progresses. You should seek medical assistance if you experience any signs of infection.
What percentage of breast reductions have complications?
- The percentage of breast reductions that have complications can vary depending on various factors. However, studies have reported complication rates ranging from 2-20%.
How long does it take for a breast reduction to fully heal?
- The healing time after breast reduction surgery is different from one patient to the other, but it generally takes several weeks to several months for the breasts to fully heal. Patients may be able to return to work and other normal activities within a few weeks after surgery, but should avoid strenuous exercise and heavy lifting for several weeks.
How long should I wear my surgical bra after breast reduction?
- The length of time that a surgical bra should be worn after breast reduction surgery can also vary depending on the individual and the surgeon’s instructions, but it is typically recommended to wear the surgical bra for several weeks after surgery to help support the breasts during the healing process. Patients may also be advised to wear a soft sports bra or compression garment during the day for several weeks after the surgical bra is no longer needed. It’s important to follow the specific instructions provided by your surgeon for optimal healing and recovery.
Further Reading about Breast Reduction with Dr Jeremy Hunt
- Read Dr Jeremy Hunt’s Breast Reduction Surgery Page
- Read Dr Jeremy Hunt’s blog about Uneven Breasts? – Surgery Options for Asymmetric Breasts
- Read Dr Jeremy Hunt’s blog about How to fix Saggy Breasts – Causes, Symptoms and Surgery
- Read Dr Jeremy Hunt’s blog about Recovery after Breast Reduction Surgery
- Read Dr Jeremy Hunt’s blog about Exercising after Breast Reduction
Medical References about Breast Reduction Complications
- Unfavourable results following reduction mammoplasty – PMC
- Breast reduction surgery – Mayo Clinic
- Breast Reduction Surgery – WebMD
- Breast Reduction Surgery: What to Expect at Home
- Breast Reduction Risks and Safety