Over time, the effects of gravity along with the loss of the skin’s natural elasticity begins to have an effect on the appearance of a woman’s breasts. These factors, combined with pregnancies and nursing will often cause the breasts to lose their youthful shape and firmness.
A breastlift, or mastopexy, is a surgical procedure to raise and reshape sagging breasts. The procedure can also reduce the size of the areola (the darker skin surrounding the nipple). Breast implants inserted in conjunction with a mastopexy procedure can increase both firmness and size.
Procedure Details: Mastopexy
Procedure: Raise and reshape sagging breasts by removing excess skin and repositioning remaining tissue and nipples.
Length: 1 to 3 hours.
Anesthesia: Local with sedation, or general.
In/Outpatient: Usually outpatient. Sometimes inpatient.
Side Effects: Temporary bruising, swelling, discomfort, numbness, dry breast skin. Permanent scars.
- Back to work: 1 week or more.
- Strenuous activities: 1 month.
Duration of Results: Variable; gravity, pregnancy, aging, and weight changes may cause new sagging. Results may last longer or be enhanced when breast implants are inserted as part of the procedure.
Questions & Answers
What is breast lift surgery?
A breast lift, also known as mastopexy, raises the breasts by removing excess skin and tightening the surrounding tissue to reshape and support the new breast contour.
New statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons show breast lifts have grown 70% since 2000, outpacing breast implants 2-to-1.
Sometimes the areola becomes enlarged over time, and a breast lift will reduce this as well.
A breast lift can rejuvenate your figure with a breast profile that is more youthful and uplifted.
A woman’s breasts often change over time, losing their youthful shape and firmness. These changes and loss of skin elasticity can result from:
- Weight fluctuations
What breast lift surgery won’t do
Breast lift surgery does not significantly change the size of your breasts or round out the upper part of your breast.
If you want your breasts to look fuller, consider breast lift and breast augmentation surgery.
If you want smaller breasts, consider combining breast lift and breast reduction surgery.
Breast lift cost
Your cost will be based on your individual plan and procedure.
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Breast lift cost may include:
- Anesthesia fees
- Hospital or surgical facility costs
- Medical tests
- Post-surgery garments
- Prescriptions for medication
- Surgeon’s fee
When choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon for a breast lift, remember that the surgeon’s experience and your comfort with him or her are just as important as the final cost of the surgery.
Breast lift candidates
You may be a good breast lift candidate if:
- You are physically healthy and maintain a stable weight
- You do not smoke
- You are bothered by the feeling that your breasts sag or have lost shape and volume
- Your breasts have a flatter, elongated shape or are pendulous
- When unsupported, your nipples fall below the breast crease
- Your nipples and areolas point downward
- You have stretched skin and enlarged areolas
- One breast is lower than the other
Breast lift surgery is a highly individualized procedure and you should do it for yourself, not to fulfill someone else’s desires or to try to fit any sort of ideal image.
Breast lift recovery
During your breast lift recovery, dressings or bandages will be applied to the incisions after the procedure is completed.
You’ll need to wear an elastic bandage or support bra to minimize swelling and support your breasts as they heal.
A small, thin tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect.
You will be given specific instructions that may include:
- How to care for your breasts following surgery
- Medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the potential for infection
- Specific concerns to look for at the surgical site or in your general health
- When to follow up with your plastic surgeon.
Be sure to ask your plastic surgeon specific questions about what you can expect during your individual breast lift recovery period.
- Where will I be taken after my surgery is complete?
- What medication will I be given or prescribed after surgery?
- Will I have dressings/bandages after surgery? When will they be removed?
- Are stitches removed? When?
- When can I resume normal activity and exercise?
- When do I return for follow-up care?
Breast lift results
The results of your breast lift surgery are immediately visible. Over time, post-surgical swelling will resolve and incision lines will fade.
Satisfaction with your new image should continue to grow as you recover from surgery.
The final results of your breast lift will appear over the next few months as breast shape and position continue to settle.
Incision lines are permanent but will continue to fade over time. The results of your breast lift surgery will be longlasting.
Over time, your breasts can continue to change due to aging and gravity. You’ll be able to retain your new look longer if you:
- Maintain your weight
- Keep a healthy lifestyle
Following your physician’s instructions is essential to the success of your surgery.
It’s important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, swelling, abrasion, or motion during the time of healing. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself.
Breast lift surgery and pregnancy
Breast surgery should be entertained after child bearing is completed.
Changes that occur in the breasts during pregnancy can minimize or reverse the improvement a breast lift provides.
Likewise, significant weight loss after breast surgery can negatively impact breast appearance.
Breast lift procedure steps
Your breast lift procedure can be achieved through a variety of incision patterns and techniques.
The appropriate technique for you will be determined based on:
- Breast size and shape
- The size and position of your areolas
- The degree of breast sagging
- Skin quality and elasticity as well as the amount of extra skin
Step 1 – Anesthesia
Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedure. The choices include intravenous sedation and general anesthesia. Your doctor will recommend the best choice for you.
Step 2 – The incision
There are three common incision patterns:
- Around the areola
- Around the areola and vertically down from the areola to the breast crease
- Around the areola, vertically down from the breast crease and horizontally along the breast crease
Step 3 – Reshaping your breasts
After your doctor makes the incisions:
- The underlying breast tissue is lifted and reshaped to improve breast contour and firmness.
- The nipple and areola are repositioned to a natural, more youthful height.
- If necessary, enlarged areolas are reduced by excising skin at the perimeter.
- Excess breast skin is removed to compensate for a loss of elasticity.
Step 4 – Closing the incisions
After your breasts are reshaped and excess skin is removed, the remaining skin is tightened as the incisions are closed.
Some incision lines resulting from breast lift are concealed in the natural breast contours; however, others are visible on the breast surface. Incision lines are permanent, but in most cases will fade and significantly improve over time.
Many women desire the smallest scar possible. However, your plastic surgeon will recommend the incisions which best suit your anatomy.
Listen to your surgeon and do not diminish your result by demanding an incision that will not be appropriate for you.
Sutures are layered deep within the breast tissue to create and support the newly shaped breasts. Sutures, skin adhesives and/or surgical tape may be used to close the skin.
Step 5 – See the results
The results of your breast lift surgery are immediately visible. Get more information about breast lift results.
Breast lift risks and safety information
The decision to have plastic surgery is extremely personal, and you’ll have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications of breast lift surgery are acceptable.
You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure and any breast lift risks and potential complications.
Breast lift risks include:
- Anesthesia risks
- Bleeding or hematoma formation
- Poor healing of incisions
- Changes in nipple or breast sensation, which may be temporary or permanent
- Breast contour and shape irregularities
- Breast asymmetry
- Fatty tissue found deep in the skin might die (fat necrosis)
- Fluid accumulation
- Potential partial or total loss of nipple and areola
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Possibility of revisional surgery
These risks and others will be fully discussed prior to your consent. It is important that you address all of your questions directly with your plastic surgeon.
Breast lift and breast implant placement
Some women may want to consider placement of a breast implant in addition to the breast lift.
An implant can provide improved upper breast fullness or cleavage. Implants can be placed at the same time or as a second procedure, depending on the experience of the surgeon.
Your breast lift consultation
During your breast lift consultation be prepared to discuss:
- Your surgical goals
- Medical conditions, drug allergies and medical treatments
- Current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drug use
- Previous surgeries
- If you have a family history of breast cancer
- The results of any mammograms or previous biopsies
Your surgeon may also:
- Evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
- Examine your breasts and may take detailed measurements of their size and shape, skin quality, and placement of your nipples and areolas
- Take photographs
- Discuss your options
- Recommend a course of treatment
- Discuss likely outcomes of breast lift surgery and any risks or potential complications
- Discuss the use of anesthesia during your breast lift
Be sure to ask questions. To help, we have prepared a checklist of questions to ask your breast lift surgeon that you can take with you to your consultation. (see tab titled “Questions to ask your breast lift surgeon”).
It’s very important to understand all aspects of your arm lift procedure. It’s natural to feel some anxiety, whether it’s excitement for your anticipated new look or a bit of preoperative stress. Don’t be shy about discussing these feelings with your plastic surgeon.
Preparing for breast lift surgery
In preparing for breast lift surgery, you may be asked to:
- Get lab testing or a medical evaluation
- Take certain medications or adjust your current medications
- Get a baseline mammogram before surgery and another one after surgery to help detect any future changes in your breast tissue
- Stop smoking
- Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding
Breast lift surgery may be performed in an accredited office-based surgical center, outpatient or ambulatory surgical facility, or a hospital.
Be sure to arrange for someone to drive you to and from surgery and to stay with you for at least the first night following surgery.
Breast lift words to know
- Areola: Pigmented skin surrounding the nipple.
- Breast augmentation: Also known as augmentation mammaplasty, breast enlargement by surgery.
- Breast lift: Also known as mastopexy; surgery to lift the breasts.
- Breast reduction: Also known as reduction mammaplasty, reduction of breast size by surgery.
- Excision: To remove the skin.
- General anesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness.
- Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin.
- Intravenous sedation: Sedatives administered by injection into a vein to help you relax.
- Local anesthesia: A drug injected directly to the site of an incision during an operation to relieve pain.
- Mammogram: An x-ray image of the breast.
- Mastopexy: Surgery to lift the breasts.
- Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together.
Questions to ask your breast lift surgeon
Use these questions as a guide during your breast lift surgery consultation:
- Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
- Were you trained specifically in the field of plastic surgery?
- How many years of plastic surgery training have you had?
- Do you have hospital privileges to perform this procedure? If so, at which hospitals?
- Is the office-based surgical facility accredited by a nationally- or state-recognized accrediting agency, or is it state-licensed or Medicare-certified?
- Am I a good candidate for this procedure?
- Where and how will you perform my procedure?
- What surgical technique is recommended for me?
- How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I need during my recovery?
- What are the risks and complications associated with my procedure?
- How are complications handled?
- How will my ability to breastfeed be affected?
- How can I expect my lifted breasts to look over time? After pregnancy? After breastfeeding?
- What are my options if I am dissatisfied with the cosmetic outcome of my lifted breasts?
- Do you have before-and-after photos I can look at for this procedure and what results are reasonable for me?
Choose a surgeon you can trust
Breast lift surgery involves many choices. The first and most important is selecting a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) surgeon you can trust.
- ASPS member surgeons meet rigorous standards:
- Board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery® (ABPS) or in Canada by The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada®
- Complete at least six years of surgical training following medical school with a minimum of three years of plastic surgery residency training
- Pass comprehensive oral and written exams
- Graduate from an accredited medical school
- Complete continuing medical education, including patient safety, each year
- Perform surgery in accredited, state-licensed, or Medicare-certified surgical facilities
Do not be confused by other official sounding boards and certifications.
The ABPS is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), which has approved medical specialty boards since 1934. There is no ABMS recognized certifying board with “cosmetic surgery” in its name.
By choosing a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, you can be assured that you are choosing a qualified, highly trained plastic surgeon who is board-certified by the ABPS or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
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