As women get older, they lose elasticity in their skin, and their breasts begin sagging and becoming less shapely. Breast lift surgery (mastopexy), is a plastic surgery procedure that can restore youthful shape and firmness to the breasts. DocShop can provide the fundamental information on mastopexy and help you find a skilled cosmetic surgeon in your area specializing in this procedure.
A breast lift procedure consists of an incision being made in the breast, followed by the removal of excess skin. The remaining skin and nipple are repositioned to give the breasts a firm, perky look that can restore a youthful appearance to a woman’s overall figure. The size and locations of the incisions that are made depends on the breast lift surgery technique used. Learn more about preparing for breast lift surgery, how the breast lift procedure is performed, and what to expect after breast lift surgery.
Preparing for the Procedure
Once you have chosen a surgeon to perform your breast lift procedure, you will attend a pre-operative consultation to discuss your surgery. During this consultation you will discuss which surgical techniques will most effectively achieve your goals, and your surgeon will be able to answer any questions you may have about the breast lift procedure. For the best results, it's important to discuss your expectations and goals openly and honestly with your doctor before breast lift surgery.
Your surgeon will give you pre-operative guidelines to follow before breast lift procedure. Typically, your doctor may advise you to:
- Avoid smoking and consuming alcohol for two weeks prior to your surgery
- Stop taking certain vitamins and herbal supplements
- Discontinue the use of aspirin, ibuprofen, or anti-inflammatory medication
To ensure your breasts are in good health prior to surgery, your doctor may also require that you have a mammogram before your breast lift procedure.
The Day of the Surgery
Although breast lift surgery is often performed as an outpatient procedure, it is important to have transportation arranged in advance. Because you will be sedated throughout surgery, you will be unable to drive. A friend or relative should be on hand to ensure you arrive safely home. If possible, ask someone to stay with you for the first 24 to 48 hours following your surgery.
Following a breast lift surgery procedure, you should expect some discomfort, including swelling, bruising, and possible itching. The pain should diminish quickly, just a few days after surgery.
Major complications are extremely rare after breast lift surgery; however, some pain can be expected in the days following a breast lift procedure. Mastopexy patients will need to arrange for someone to drive them home after surgery, as the sedation will be wearing off, and patients will not be allowed to drive themselves. They may have difficulty bending for a few days and should avoid lifting heavy objects for three to four weeks. Following breast lift surgery, patients should expect to take at least a week off work and should be prepared to wear a support bra over gauze bandages during their breast lift recovery period.
General discomfort after a breast lift procedure is typically minor. Consider having someone help at home for a few days, as the ability to lift and bend will be limited. Following the breast lift procedure, pain can usually be treated with over-the-counter painkillers or medication prescribed by a doctor. Patients experiencing extreme pain should contact their doctor immediately, as this may be a sign of breast lift complications.
Swelling and Bruising
After your breast lift surgery, your breasts may be swollen and tender with bruises around the incision sites. The pain should clear up within a couple days, and the swelling should go down within one to two weeks. Bruising around incisions will disappear in seven to ten days.
Complications following a breast lift procedure are uncommon; however, at times there may be temporary loss of feeling or heightened sensation around the nipple and areola. This will generally dissipate after a few days. Because the surgeon will not be removing the nipple and areola from the breast mass during the breast lift procedure, there is generally little concern for permanent loss of feeling. Although this is one of the small risks of breast lift surgery, rarely is the loss of feeling or altered sensation permanent after breast lift surgery.
Following the breast lift procedure, there may be some itching and redness along the healing incisions. Those who experience itchiness should apply an antibiotic ointment and avoid scratching the area.
Cosmetic surgeons are often trying new incision techniques to reduce scarring following a breast lift procedure. Currently, the major drawback of a mastopexty is the resulting scars on the breast. If your surgeon utilizes the standard anchor-shaped breast lift surgery procedure, you will have a circular scar around the areola, a vertical scar below the nipple, and a scar that extends along the breast crease. The doughnut mastopexy incision leaves only a circular scar around the areola and nipple. Although the prominence of breast lift scars will diminish with the passing of time, patients should understand that the scars will be permanent. Most patients find that the benefits of a breast lift outweigh the negative appearance of scars and are pleased with their final breast lift results.
Am I a Candidate?
Women often seek a breast lift after experiencing significant weight loss, pregnancy, or aging, which can all cause breasts to begin sagging. Find out more about the general requirements for undergoing mastopexy and discover if you might benefit from a breast lift.
Drooping breasts may cause you to wonder if breast lift surgery can help. Although mastopexy is not for everyone, many women have benefited from the procedure. Determine if you are a good candidate for a breast lift.
Ideal breast lift candidates are women who are seeking a remedy for drooping breasts. It is important to have realistic expectations about the results of breast lift surgery. Although a breast lift can be performed on any size breasts, women with smaller breasts seem to attain the most benefits from mastopexy.
In general, a mastopexy candidate should be a woman who:
- Is over the age of 18.
- Has drooping breasts (breasts with stretched skin and less volume than in the past).
- Is physically healthy and emotionally stable.
- Is not pregnant or breastfeeding (and does not plan to get pregnant).
- Does not have plans to loss excessive amounts of weight.
Visit the DocShop gallery to view breast lift before and after photos.
Photo credit: James P. Wire, MD
Breast Lift after Pregnancy
Many women begin to consider a breast lift after they have children, since pregnancy and breastfeeding can turn once firm breasts into drooping breasts. It is recommended to postpone mastopexy until after you are finished having children.
Although breast lift surgery does not hinder a woman from becoming pregnant, future pregnancies could cause additional stretching of breast skin and alter breast lift results. By waiting to have a mastopexy, you increase the chance that your breast lift results will last longer.
In most cases, mastopexy does not affect the ability to breastfeed. However, the inability to breastfeed could occur after surgery and is listed among potential breast lift complications.
Breast Lift with Augmentation
In addition to stretched skin, drooping breasts may have lost additional volume due to tissue loss. In such cases, a mastopexy with augmentation may produce better results than a breast lift alone. Breast implants inserted during a mastopexy procedure can fill missing volume and create fuller breasts.
Breast Lift after Massive Weight Loss
Massive weight loss can give you a new lease on life. It can also leave you with drooping breasts due to fat loss. Once you have achieved your goal weight (or have come close to it), a breast lift is an option to restore firmness and shape to your breasts. To avoid needing a second surgery, a mastopexy should be postponed if you plan to lose a significant amount of weight.
Because your breasts are not the only areas on your body to accumulate excess skin after a sizeable weight loss, in addition to a breast lift, you should discuss additional procedures including a body lift, tummy tuck (also known as abdominoplasty), or other post bariatric surgeries with your surgeon.
The greatest benefit of a mastopexy procedure is the transformation of drooping breasts into firmer breasts. This in turn can have a tremendous positive impact on the patient’s self-esteem because their bust line will look more youthful, certain clothing will fit better, and in cases of patients who have lost a significant amount of weight, the breast lift will add the finishing touches to a trim, fit new figure. Learn more about the potential benefits of breast lift surgery.
Weight loss, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and aging can cause breasts to sag or droop, hindering a woman’s self-confidence. Breast lift surgery improves the position of the breasts and creates confidence in women who once felt embarrassed or ashamed of their bust lines.
Breast lift benefits are not simply limited to physical improvements. Many women who have their breasts lifted and reshaped in a perkier and more youthful-looking position find the surgery emotionally rewarding and well-worth the time commitment and price tag.
Correct Drooping Breasts
Drooping, also known as ptosis, is commonly caused by the stretching of the skin and loss of volume that can be the result of extensive weight loss, pregnancy, breastfeeding, or simply the aging process. Breast lift surgery is designed to improve the look of sagging and drooping breasts by removing excess skin and lifting the inner breast tissue to create fuller, younger looking breasts.
A breast lift is primarily used to correct drooping breasts or improve the shape or symmetry of the breasts. A breast lift with implants can further enhance the volume of the breasts.
Restore Youthful Appearance
Youthful looking breasts have volume and rest high on the chest. As we age, the skin begins to stretch and volume is lost, creating a droopy look which occurs faster after breastfeeding or excessive weight loss. By tightening and lifting the breast, breast lift results in a perkier, more youthful appearance. Many women report that their breasts look years younger after breast lift surgery.
Increase Clothing Options
Many women who are unhappy with the appearance of their breasts find shopping for clothes frustrating and discouraging. They may avoid wearing fitted clothing or wear items that hide their bodies. The firmer and shapelier physique that is possible through breast lift creates new clothing options for many women who undergo the procedure. In many cases, they feel comfortable wearing types of clothing that they were unable to wear before their breast lift. They may find that bras and clothing fit them better and can often wear fitted clothing with more confidence.
Extensive weight loss, breastfeeding, and the normal aging process can cause breasts to loose their volume and sag, causing some women to lose confidence in the way they look. For women who are unhappy with the appearance of their breasts due to sagging or drooping, a breast lift can improve their self-confidence by creating shapelier, younger looking breasts. Many women who have had breast lift surgery find that they experience a positive change in their overall quality of life as a result of their improved self-esteem and no longer feeling self-conscious about their appearance.
Risks and Complications
Breast lifts are considered to be relatively safe procedures that can improve the appearance of sagging and drooping breasts. As with any surgery, there are some complications that may occur. Typically, these complications are minor. However, it is important that you fully understand breast lift complications before deciding if the procedure is right for you.
Although most breast lift complications are not fatal, it is important to take into consideration all of the potential complications that can occur during and after surgery. In addition to these surgical complications, there are other side effects of breast lift surgery that women should consider before deciding to undergo the procedure.
Infection is a concern after any type of surgery and is one of the most common breast lift complications. Symptoms typically appear within one to six weeks following surgery and may include severe swelling and pain, redness, discharge, a foul smell, and a fever.
The most common infection is staphylococcus, or “staph” which can be treated with antibiotics relatively easily. However, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a rare yet severe infection that is resistant to most types of antibiotics. Treatment of MRSA may require a longer hospital stay where special care will be taken to ensure that the infection does not spread. Treatment may also include draining the wound, taking special antibiotic medications or intravenous antibiotics, and applying ointments.
A hematoma is an accumulation of blood that can become trapped below an incision. They can cause pain, infection, and the formation of scar tissue, and may appear just after surgery or during the recovery process. When small, they are absorbed by the body, but larger hematomas may need to be removed through surgery. Because they disrupt the blood supply to the skin, large hematomas can lead to the death of the skin and tissue of the nipple and breast if left untreated.
Reactions to Anesthesia
General anesthesia is typically used during breast lift surgery and is administered through an injected liquid or inhaled gas. Your risk for complications from anesthesia depends on the type that is used, your health, and your age. Adverse reactions to anesthesia are uncommon in healthy people but can be one of the most serious breast lift complications, especially for those with other medical conditions.
Allergic reactions to anesthesia can cause nausea and vomiting, headache, sore throat, and shivering. Some patients may also experience a slower than normal return to full mental function. Serious reactions to anesthesia include heart attack, stroke and in some cases, death. A rare, but sometimes fatal, condition called malignant hyperthermia can be triggered by some general anesthetics, causing a potentially deadly temperature rise in the body.
For the first few months following surgery, breast lift scars will be very noticeable. Most of these scars will begin to fade over several months. While every effort is made by your surgeon to reduce the appearance of scars, breast lift scars can become undesirable complications if they form abnormally.
Keloids, thick, mushroom-shaped scars that extend beyond the incision site, may form due to a rapid healing process. Similar to keloids, red and raised hypertrophic scars may also form but will not go beyond the incision. There is also the risk of parts of the breast becoming hard due to abnormal scar tissue formation. Hematomas can increase the risk of scar tissue formation, and certain types of infection can lead to the formation of abnormal scars.
In some cases, an additional surgery may be required to improve the appearance of these scars. However, cortisone injections, laser therapy, and over-the-counter topical creams may also be effective in reducing the appearance of abnormal scars. The use of silicone sheeting may also reduce the risk of scar formation if used during recovery.
Recovery and Results
Most breast lifts are completed with favorable results and without serious complications. However, breast lift results vary from woman to woman and also depend on whether any other type of surgery, such as breast augmentation or breast reduction, is performed in conjunction with the breast lift.
Your choice of surgeon is one of the most important factors that can determine your breast lift results. It is extremely important to choose a qualified and skilled surgeon for your breast lift procedure. Select your breast lift surgeon carefully by evaluating him or her on several factors including board certification, training and experience, and hospital privileges.
You should also consider the different surgical techniques that are available for breast lift surgery, including the standard anchor pattern, the doughnut mastopexy, and the laser bra lift. These different techniques will determine the shape of the incisions and the look of the resulting scars. You may also want to consider a breast lift with implants to lift the breasts as well as add volume.
Satisfaction with your breast lift results also depends on your expectations about what breast lift can achieve. It is extremely important to have reasonable expectations about breast lift by understanding what the procedure can and can’t achieve. Breast lift surgery can create a perkier, shapelier appearance to the breasts. It can make breasts appear fuller but does not add volume to the breasts. Some women will be more satisfied with breast lift results when the lift is combined with a breast augmentation which will increase the volume as well.
It is also important to keep in mind that scars will be permanently visible after breast lift surgery, but will fade over time. Many women see scars as a fair trade for the firmer and shapelier breasts that are possible through breast lift.
The most important thing patients can do to increase their satisfaction with breast lift results is to follow all pre- and post-operative instructions to make recovery as easy as possible and minimize the risks of breast lift surgery and breast lift complications.
How Long Will Breast Lift Results Last?
In the absence of any significant weight fluctuation or pregnancy, breast lift results should remain consistent for many years. Unfortunately, the effects of aging and gravity cannot be evaded forever, and breasts will eventually sag and droop in spite of excellent breast lift results. It is possible to have more than one breast lift in order to maintain a youthful appearance, but it should be noted that doing so will result in more noticeable scars. Some women who receive breast implants with their breast lift find that the results last longer.
Visit the DocShop gallery to view breast lift before and after photos.
Photo credit: Sutton L Graham, II, MD, FACS
Breast Lift Surgical Techniques
Surgeons can choose from several breast lift techniques depending upon the specific needs of their patient. They vary according to the incision pattern used. The standard (anchor) breast lift surgery involves an incision along the underside of the breast and along the crease where it meets the chest; the doughnut mastopexy involves an incision made around the nipple; the laser bra lift, a new technique that employs a laser instead of a scalpel, uses the patient’s excess tissue to create a permanent bra-like support system beneath the breast. The method of breast lift used depends on the size of the patient's breasts and the extent to which they are sagging. Your doctor will help you determine which technique will be most beneficial.
"Doughnut mastopexy" is a type of breast lift surgery that involves less skin removal and results in a significantly faster recovery time than breast lift surgery performed with the standard “anchor” technique. The scarring from doughnut mastopexy occurs around the circumference of the nipple and areola, and is often less noticeable than the vertical scars from the standard technique. It should be noted that the doughnut technique may not be a good option for women with larger breasts.
Laser Bra Lift
The laser bra breast lift is an exciting new alternative to traditional mastopexy. It provides a longer-lasting solution for patients with sagging breasts. A laser breast lift uses the same laser technology that doctors have used for years in facial plastic surgery. During a traditional breast lift surgery, the skin removed during the procedure is discarded. By contrast, the new laser bra breast lift makes use of that excess skin to add support to the underside of the breast. Most women of all breast sizes are candidates for this breast lift technique.
When performing breast lift surgery, doctors most often use the standard anchor-shaped incision, which leaves some permanent scarring on the breast. Currently, some doctors are exploring the use of other incision techniques and alternative methods that reduce scars and prolong the results of the procedure such as the laser bra breast lift. However, the standard anchor technique has been proven to reduce sag and droopiness on the lower half of the breast and create rounder, perkier breasts. Most women are good candidates for this procedure, although women with smaller, saggy breasts will be the ideal candidates.
Choosing a Breast Lift Surgeon
Your choice of breast lift surgeon is one of the most important decisions you can make to ensure your safety and a favorable outcome. An experienced and skilled surgeon will have the qualifications to achieve your desired goals. We have provided important factors for you to consider when choosing a surgeon for your breast lift surgery.
It is extremely important to choose a qualified breast lift surgeon both for your safety as well as to attain the outcome you truly desire. You should select a surgeon who puts you at ease, and has the training and qualifications to achieve your goals for breast lift surgery. Many factors can help you determine the quality of a surgeon including board certification, surgical training and experience, and whether or not the surgeon is able to perform breast lift procedures through a hospital.
The first step toward choosing a qualified breast lift surgeon is to find a doctor who is a certified member of an accredited board. However, not all certifications are equal. Most certifying boards require some standard of surgical training and experience, but requirements can vary greatly.
The American Board of Plastic Surgery is the primary certifying board for breast surgeries, including breast lift. It requires surgeons to have extensive surgical training and experience, a proven record of exceptional patient care, and a history of successful surgical results with a low rate of complications. Because these surgeons are periodically required to be recertified, you can be confident in the quality of a breast lift surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
It is important to understand that board certification does not guarantee quality breast lift results or that there will be no complications after breast lift surgery. However, board certification can give you a starting point to narrow down your search for a breast lift surgeon.
Experience and Training
A qualified breast lift surgeon should have advanced training and recent experience in the types of breast lift techniques you are considering for your breast enhancement. Determine if the surgeons you are considering have special training in common surgical techniques, such as the standard anchor breast lift surgery, doughnut mastopexy, and the relatively new laser breast lift. You may also want to consider how many breast lift surgeries each surgeon has performed, as well as the outcome of those surgeries.
One of the best ways to determine the quality of a breast lift surgeon is to evaluate the results that other patients have achieved. Read patient testimonials and view before and after images, which are available on many surgeons’ websites and in their offices. Reviewing past patient experiences can give you an idea about the quality of the surgeons you are considering.
You may also want to determine if your breast lift surgeon has been granted privileges to operate at a hospital, as well as the procedures he or she is allowed to perform. Surgeons who are granted operating privileges at a hospital have typically achieved a high standard of training and experience. To gain these privileges, surgeons must be evaluated by their peers to verify a standard of training and competency. These privileges are typically only granted for specific procedures, such as breast lift surgery, for which the surgeon has been thoroughly evaluated.
Breast Lift Cost and Financing
There are a number of factors that determine breast lift cost. The facility fee, anesthesia fee, and doctor's fee - as well as the addition of breast implants, if applicable - can all affect the final mastopexy price. Patients should certainly consider a surgeon's experience and background when assessing breast lift cost, and keep in mind that a more experienced surgeon will often command a higher price. Remember that breast lift surgery is rarely covered by insurance, although most surgeons offer breast lift financing options.
The average breast lift cost is listed between $4,000 and $6,000 and will vary depending on geographical area. Other factors also influence mastopexy price, and it's important to understand everything for which you are paying before you make your decision. The price in part depends on how long and extensive your surgery is. If your breasts have a significant degree of drooping, or they are very large, you will probably require a longer, more expensive surgery. It's best to discuss your particular needs with a plastic surgeon to determine exactly what type of procedure you'll need, and how much you can expect to pay.
A surgeon with a lot of experience performing breast lifts and who is in high demand will likely charge more for his or her services. In addition, some plastic surgeons will perform their surgeries only in a hospital. Using hospital facilities rather than a private operating suite increases the breast lift cost, but may reduce the chance of serious breast lift complications. If your surgery requires an overnight stay in the hospital or private surgical facility, this adds to the overall price as well.
When selecting a breast lift surgeon, the cost should not be the sole deciding factor. One must first consider the skill and reputation of the surgeon before considering breast lift cost, as the surgeon's experience is often directly related to the final breast lift results. Choosing an experienced breast lift surgeon who charges more is a better decision than selecting a surgeon who offers the surgery at a cheaper price. The cheaper price may be an indicator that the surgeon has fewer qualifications and less experience, and could put you at higher risk of surgical complications.
Since many surgeons offer breast lift financing, most patients find that mastopexy price can be very affordable. Financing plans allow for the patient to make monthly payments with little (or even no) interest until they pay off the balance of the surgery. Overall, breast lift cost is a reasonable investment if it will improve the appearance of the breasts and increase a patient's self-confidence.
Find an Experienced Plastic Surgeon through DocShop
There are many things to consider before undergoing breast lift surgery, including the risks and benefits of mastopexy and the costs associated with breast lifts. It is important to meet with a skilled cosmetic surgeon in order to discuss treatment options and ensure that you make an informed decision about surgery. DocShop is your online resource for important procedural information and can also help you find an experienced cosmetic surgeon in your area.