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photo galleryIf you are a woman with overly large breasts, breast reduction surgery can be a tremendously life-enhancing option. Having the procedure will give you far more than just smaller, firmer breasts. You'll also get significant relief from many physical and emotional discomforts, a new sense of freedom in your exercise and physical activity, and the ability to wear a greater variety of clothing styles. In fact, of all of the procedures that plastic surgeons perform, breast reduction ranks among the highest in patient satisfaction.

Breast reduction, also called reduction mammaplasty, is a procedure that removes excess breast tissue and skin, making your breasts more proportional to the rest of your body. The areola (the pigmented skin surrounding the nipple) may be reduced and repositioned as well.

How is breast reduction performed?

The specific method chosen for your breast reduction will be determined by your anatomy, Dr. Barnthouse's preferences and your desired results. The most up-to-date method for breast reduction is the vertical scar method.

After Dr. Barnthouse has removed the excess breast tissue, fat and skin, the nipple and areola are shifted to a higher position. The areola, which is usually larger than ideal, is reduced in size. Skin that was formerly located above the nipple is brought down and together to reshape the breast. Liposuction may be used to improve the contour, especially on the sides of the breasts.

The nipples and areolas usually remain attached to their underlying tissue as they are moved to their higher position – much like a button being moved to a higher buttonhole – and this may allow for the preservation of sensation. This method may also preserve the ability to breast-feed, although it is not guaranteed.

The type of incision used for your breast reduction may vary, depending on the size and shape of your breasts and the desired amount of reduction. Women who seek a smaller reduction in size may be able to avoid the horizontal incision that runs underneath the breast. Other incisional techniques may be used in some instances. Women whose breasts contain a significant amount of fatty tissue may find that liposuction alone can be used to reduce breast size with only minimal scars.

How will I be cared for on the day of my surgery?

Breast reduction surgery may be performed in a hospital, an outpatient surgery center or an office-based surgical suite. If you are admitted to the hospital, your stay will be a short one.

Medications are administered to keep you comfortable during the procedure. Usually a general anesthetic is used so that you'll sleep throughout the entire surgical procedure.

How will I look and feel right after surgery?

When surgery is complete, you'll be taken to a recovery area. In some cases, small drainage tubes will have to be placed beneath the breast skin to help prevent fluids from accumulating. Gauze dressing will be placed on your breasts and covered with an elastic bandage or surgical bra.

On the day of surgery, you'll be encouraged to get out of bed for short periods of time. Most of the discomfort you feel in the days following the procedure can be controlled with medication prescribed by Dr. Barnthouse.

Although everyone heals at a different rate, you can expect that your recovery will follow this general time line:

Within the first week:

  • You will begin to move about more comfortably and perhaps even return to (nonstrenuous) work.
  • Surgical drains will be removed and dressings will be changed.

After several weeks:

  • Bruising, swelling and normal periodic discomfort will diminish.
  • You can discontinue wearing a support bra.
  • Sensation within the nipple and areola area will gradually improve.
  • You may return to most of your normal activities, including mild exercise.

After a few months:

  • Your breasts will start settling into a more natural shape.
  • Incision lines will begin to fade.
  • If you haven’t felt it sooner, you will notice relief from neck, back and shoulder pain.