American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

Live your breast life – answers to your breast reduction questions

breast reduction asnwers

Normal breasts come in all shapes and sizes, but sometimes large breasts can be bothersome and interfere with daily activities and lifestyle goals. A breast reduction is a surgical procedure that reduces breast size to manage symptoms resulting from large breasts.

What does breast reduction involve?

This surgical procedure involves the removal of skin and breast tissue, followed by reshaping and lifting of the breast to achieve a smaller breast size that is more proportional to the rest of the body.

How do you know if you're a good candidate for breast reduction?

Good candidates for breast reduction are women who are in good health, confident that they would like to reduce the size of their breasts and have realistic expectations. Signs that breast reduction may be of benefit to you include:

  • Persistent back pain, shoulder or neck pain that does not resolve with other treatments
  • Poor posture due to large breasts
  • Indentations from bra straps
  • Arm numbness or tingling
  • Breast size limits the ability to be physically active
  • Persistent skin irritation beneath the breast crease

Is breast reduction covered by insurance?

A breast reduction treats physical symptoms of large breasts, is considered a medically necessary procedure and is often covered by insurance. It is important to check with your insurance plan to determine their criteria for coverage and prior authorization. Insurance companies often require documentation of persistent symptoms caused by large breasts not responsive to other treatments.

Additionally, in order to be considered a true breast reduction, a certain amount of breast tissue must be removed. The minimal amount of tissue removed varies per insurance plan and is based on body surface area. Typically at least 200-350 grams must be removed from each breast for the procedure to be covered by insurance but this can range to a higher weight requirement to be removed of 700-800 grams.

What is the difference between a breast lift and breast reduction?

Both breast lift and breast reduction surgeries involve the removal of excess skin and breast tissue followed by breast reshaping, resulting in a lifted appearance.

However, a breast lift is purely cosmetic and not covered by insurance, whereas a breast reduction is often for the management of medical symptoms. If less than 200-350 grams of breast tissue is removed, the procedure may be considered a breast lift.

How much smaller will your breasts be after a breast reduction?

The amount of tissue your plastic surgeon will remove depends on several factors, including your initial breast size and the blood supply to your nipple. If your breasts are larger to begin with, more tissue may be removed. However, if too much breast tissue and blood supply are removed, the nipple may not have enough blood supply to survive.

It is not possible to predict cup size when planning surgery; however, it has been thought that for every 100-300 grams of tissue removed, your breast will decrease approximately one bra cup size. Your board-certified plastic surgeon will be able to determine a safe amount of breast tissue to remove.

Do you have to be a certain age to undergo breast reduction?

The minimum age to undergo a breast reduction may be in the teenage years in patients who have significant symptoms, though this is in careful consultation with the patient and the patient's parents/guardians. It is recommended to wait until the breasts are fully developed.

If breastfeeding is important, some women opt to wait until they are done having children. Other women prefer to reduce their breast size earlier in order to get symptomatic relief.

Will your breast sensation be altered after breast reduction?

Breast sensation can be the same following surgery, though sometimes sensation in the nipple is decreased (numbness) or even increased (more sensitivity). As with breastfeeding, certain reduction techniques may better preserve nipple sensation depending on individual patients. You should ask your surgeon about what they expect your sensory outcome will be after breast reduction.

What is recovery like after a breast reduction?

After your surgery, you will go home with dressings over your breasts and possibly small drains in the incisions. You will be given a surgical bra to minimize swelling as the breasts heal.

Your surgeon will give you instructions on proper wound care and will schedule follow-up visits to monitor your progress. Incisions need to stay dry for the first few days, but you will be able to shower after 1-2 days typically.

The breasts are often swollen after the procedure, but the swelling will decrease over the first few weeks, after which you will be able to see the final result of your breast reduction surgery. There may be small areas of opening along the incision line that may take longer to heal.

Scars from the procedure heal over the course of at least a year after surgery and may appear redder in the beginning then fade over time.

Does it sound like breast reduction is right for you?

If you think you would be a good candidate for breast reduction and would benefit from the results of this procedure, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has a wealth of information for your journey. Get started by connecting with a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area to discuss your condition and expectations.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.


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