A breast lift, also called a mastopexy, is a surgical procedure that involves removing excess skin and reshaping breast tissue to lift the breasts.
Who is a Candidate?
The procedure is an option for women whose breasts sag or nipples point downward. Patients should understand that a breast lift won’t significantly change the size of their breasts, but the procedure can be performed in conjunction with a breast augmentation or breast reduction.
A breast lift can help if:
- The patient has sagging breasts; reduced volume and shape, or flattened and elongated breasts.
- The nipples are unsupported and fall below the breast creases.
- The nipples and areolae point downward.
- The areolae have stretched out of proportion to the breasts.
- One of the breasts falls lower than the other.
Patients considering pregnancy or breastfeeding in the future should delay getting a breast lift, because pregnancy could cause the breasts to stretch and diminish the results of the procedure.
Women with smaller sagging breasts will experience longer lasting results because larger breasts are more likely to sag again.
Over time, the breasts lose elasticity and firmness. This can occur as a result of pregnancy, fluctuations in weight, or simply gravity. During pregnancy, as the breasts get fuller or heavier, the ligaments in the breast stretch and lead to sagging.
Fluctuations in weight can cause the breast skin to stretch and lose elasticity, while gravity can cause ligaments in the breasts to stretch and sag.
Potential Side Effects and Risks
As with any surgical procedure, a breast lift poses the following risks:
- Scarring. Though permanent, scars will typically soften and fade within one to two years. The surgeon will take care to ensure the scars can be hidden by bras and bathing suits. On rare occasions, poor healing can lead to thick and wide scars.
- Numbness. Sensation typically returns within a few weeks, but loss of feeling may be permanent in some cases. Erotic sensation is usually unaffected.
- Irregularities or asymmetry. The shape and size of the breasts could change during the healing process. Or, surgery may fail to correct pre-existing asymmetry.
- Visible damage. Partial or total loss of the nipples or areolae can occur if blood supply to the area is interrupted during surgery and causes damage to the breast tissue.
- Trouble breastfeeding. Though women are typically able to breastfeed after the procedure, some women may have difficulty producing enough milk.
Other standard risks of surgery include infection, bleeding, and an adverse reaction to the anesthesia.
Once the patient has been sedated, whether with local or general anesthesia, the doctor will make incisions around the areolae, extending downward from the areolae to the breast creases, and horizontally along the breast creases. The surgeon will then remove excess breast skin, shift the nipples to higher positions, and make stitches to close the incisions. In some cases, the surgeon may also need to reduce the size of the areolae.
The entire procedure takes two to three hours and patients can go home the same day.