Find a Doctor
Breast Lift Risks

Breast Lift Risks


Like other types of surgeries, breast lift surgery carries the potential risk of undesirable results. Here is some information about some of the most common risks of breast lift surgery and breast lift with augmentation so that you can decide if the procedure is right for you.

Although it is a relatively safe procedure that can improve the look of droopy breasts, there are certain risks associated with breast lift surgery. When an augmentation is included in the breast lift procedure, the implants create additional risks. It is important to take into consideration these risks of breast lift surgery when deciding whether or not to undergo the surgery.


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 breast lift 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.

Abnormal Scarring

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.


Because each patient heals differently, some women will experience small differences in the size or shape of breasts after breast lift surgery. Asymmetrical nipple placement may also be apparent after surgery. Breast asymmetry is one of the most common risks of breast lift surgery and in most cases, is minor. However, if the asymmetry is extreme, it can be revised through an additional surgery.

Altered Sensation

Loss of sensitivity in the breast or areola (area around the nipple) is a normal side effect following surgery and is usually temporary. In some cases, women may experience extra sensitivity, which is also typically a temporary risk of breast lift surgery. During surgery, the nerves that bring sensation to the breasts are severed and it may take several months for these nerves to regenerate and for sensation to return.

Change in nipple sensation is one of the normal risks of breast lift surgery. However, in rare cases, sensation loss can be permanent. There is a higher risk of permanent sensation loss when the nipples need to be repositioned during surgery.

Interference with Breastfeeding

An interference with breastfeeding has long been thought to be one of the risks of breast lift surgery. However, because the milk glands are not separated from the nipple during the procedure, breastfeeding is typically not affected. Great care is taken to preserve the milk ducts during nipple repositioning and only in rare cases are the ducts affected.

Breast Lift with Augmentation

In addition to the common risks of breast lift surgery, patients who also undergo breast augmentation should be aware of the risks that are associated with breast implants. Implants can move or ripple, causing undesirable results, or become hard - a condition known as capsular contracture. Ruptured breast implants may cause some health problems and mammography results may be affected by implants, especially when they are placed above the muscle. Some women who have breast implants report difficulty breastfeeding.

Visit the DocShop gallery to view breast lift before and after photos.

Photo credit: Sutton L Graham, II, MD, FACS

Locate a Cosmetic Surgeon in Your Area

To reduce the risks of breast lift surgery, it is important to choose a skilled and qualified cosmetic surgeon to perform your breast lift. We provide a directory of surgeons throughout the United States who are highly trained and experienced in the breast lift procedure. Visit DocShop’s online directory to find a cosmetic surgeon in your area.

Want More Information?

Contact a Doctor Near You.