Large breasts can be responsible for a number of problems, especially if they are disproportionate compared to the rest of your body. They can cause breast pain, shoulder and neck pain and soreness under the breasts. They can also lead to a loss of self esteem and many sufferers experience difficulties finding bras and clothes that fit correctly.
A breast reduction (reduction mammaplasty) reduces the size of your breasts, while keeping their shape. The operation also elevates the breast on the chest wall and can help reduce any discrepancy in size.
The operation takes between two and three hours and is carried out under general anaesthetic. During the procedure, excess skin and breast tissue will be removed. Then the nipple and the pigmented areola around it will be elevated to a natural position on the front of the breast.
If you are overweight, you may be asked to lose weight before surgery. This helps to minimise the risks of poor wound healing after the operation. You should also stop taking the contraceptive pill for six weeks before surgery to reduce the risk of blood clots and give up or cut down on smoking, to reduce the risk of chest infection and speed up wound healing.
There will be a scar around the areola, a vertical scar from the areola down to the fold under the breast and in some cases a further scar in the fold under the breast.
The operation will require one to two nights in hospital and you will need to take two to four weeks off work to recover.
You should not lift any heavy weights or exercise vigorously for one month after the operation.
Sutures will be trimmed after about a week and you will need to wear a firm supportive bra continuously for about four weeks to reduce swelling after the operation.
Minor wound infections are quite common after this procedure, but in most cases they settle with a course of antibiotics. Occasionally a bleeding blood vessel or a more serious infection may require a return to the operating theatre. The blood supply to the nipple and areola are preserved during the operation, but after the procedure the level of sensation to the nipple may be reduced.
If you were to become pregnant after a breast reduction your breasts will increase in size in a normal fashion. However, it may not be possible to breast feed a child, as the level of milk production may be reduced.
Other risks include poor wound healing, damage to the blood supply of the nipple and areola and reduced sensation more widely over the breast.