What are the limitations, risks and potential complications of breast reduction?
The following information is provided to fully inform you about breast reduction. The information is not intended to scare you. Serious complications following breast reduction are uncommon. Your experience is likely to be a positive one.
Haematoma. This is a collection of blood and fluid within the breast that occasionally occurs in the first few hours after surgery. If this occurs we return to the theatre and remove this fluid.
Infection is uncommon but sometimes occurs. If you have ever had irritation or infection in the fold under your breasts you will understand this is a potential site for bacteria to accumulate. We give you antibiotics during your procedure to minimise this risk. Delayed healing is sometimes a problem. When it occurs it usually occurs where the new breast fold is created beneath your breast.
Loss of nipple sensation and sensation in the skin of your breasts occurs commonly in the first few weeks following the procedure. It will slowly improve over six weeks in most cases. In rare cases permanent loss of nipple sensation can occur.
Scars. Breast reduction involves extensive incisions all of which heal by formation of scars. In most cases the scars settle with time to be acceptable to the patient. A small number of women form bad scars (either hypertrophic or keloid). If you have any history of forming bad scars or family members have exhibited this tendency then breast reduction may not be an operation for you. Think very carefully about how you feel about scars on your breasts and around your nipples. If you are distressed by this thought you should think long and hard before proceeding to breast reduction.
Breast lumps. Sometimes lumps appear in fat tissue of your breasts (fat necrosis) following breast reduction. This represents part of the spectrum of healing of breast tissue. These often resolve by themselves over some months following surgery. Sometimes these lumps are painful and you may require pain medication to treat the pain.
Asymmetry. It is normal for your breasts to be slightly different in size. This is universal prior to surgery and some variation in breast size is normal after surgery.
Breast cancer and breast screening. All women over forty should consider having regular mammography (every two years) to find early, unsuspected breast cancers. The Australian government (through Breastscreen) provides this service to all women over fifty years. Very rarely an unsuspected breast cancer may be found in the tissue removed during breast reduction. All tissue removed at surgery is stored separately for each side (right and left breast) and is sent to a pathologist specialising in breast tissue for examination. If you are forty or over we will request you have a mammogram prior to planning surgery and all patients will be requested to have a mammogram twelve months after surgery to establish a new baseline for ongoing breast screening in line with the Australian breast screening program. Very rarely, maybe once in my career as a plastic surgeon, an unsuspected breast cancer may be found in the tissue removed during breast reduction. You don't need a referral to have a mammogram.
Breast feeding. ALL women undergoing breast reduction must do so understanding that they may have no capacity to breast feed. In some cases following breast reduction women are able to lactate (produce milk). The amount of milk is usually not sufficient to fully feed a newborn child and additional feeds are required. From an emotional viewpoint suckling is important to mother and baby and this may be possible if you choose.
Long term results. Your breasts will continue to change as you progress through life. Your breasts will enlarge again in the event of further pregnancy, they will change in size and shape with significant changes in your weight and as you get older they will show all the changes of ageing.