What is a breast reduction?

A breast reduction aims to reduce the size of a woman’s breasts by surgically removing breast tissue. It can also be performed at the same time as breast uplift, or other cosmetic procedures.

In 2014, almost 5,000 women decided to have their breast size reduced according to the British Association of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS).

Who is suitable?
Breast reduction is a helpful procedure for ladies who are troubled with the common symptoms associated with having a larger bust, including backache, bra straps cutting in and poor posture. Women may also feel embarrassed by a larger bust and feel it is difficult to wear a wide range of clothing styles.

You should be in good health and a non-smoker or stop smoking at least six weeks prior to surgery.

Many patients request a particular cup size and this is not something that can be guaranteed. The breast has to be tailored depending on how broad it is and how much reduction is required, but you should communicate your desired goal to your surgeon who will be able to explain what is achievable.

What happens in the operation?
The surgery will aim to remove excess fat and skin from the breasts, reshaping them and repositioning the nipples to form new smaller breasts. The cuts are then closed with stitches.

Your surgeon will have discussed with you in your consultations what kind of resulting shape and size you want to achieve, and what type of technique will be best to use.

You will have general anaesthetic during the procedure, so you will be asleep throughout. The surgery will take between one and a half to three hours to complete.

Are there any complications?
Very few women are able to breast feed after a reduction mammoplasty, and many also experience less sensitivity or numbness in their nipples.

With any operation there is a risk of infection in the wound. Occasionally dead tissue can expand and form a scab which leaves a broader scar – this is more likely for people that smoke.

What scars will I have?
There are many different variations in the pattern of scarring used nowadays. Scars are designed to not be noticeable while wearing clothing and are designed to lie under a bra or bikini top.

Any reduction will require a circular scar around the pink part of the nipple (areola) and then a scar that runs vertically down from here to the crease of the breast. Larger reductions also require the scar to run along in the crease of the breast for a variable distance.

Scars will begin as red and possibly thick and will fade in colour over a period of about a year.

How long is the recovery period?
You will need to stay in hospital for a night after the operation, although it is possible to go home the same day if all goes well. Many surgeons now prefer not to use drains to remove excess fluid.

You will normally be seen for a wound check with your consultant approximately 10-14 days after the operation, and will be asked to wear a supportive sports bra for four to six weeks post-op. It is normal for the breasts to feel swollen for the first month.

Arrange at least a week off work, and you can gradually return to normal activity within four to six weeks.

Avoid strenuous exercise or stretching and heavy lifting for up to six weeks after the operation, and you should avoid driving until you no longer experience any pain while wearing a seatbelt.

How long do results last?
Results are permanent, but your bust can still increase because of pregnancy or weight gain.

You will have a smaller and lighter bust that is tailored to match your frame. The breast will also be lifted as often heavy breasts droop considerably over time and any asymmetry will be much improved.

Mr Gerard Lambe is a consultant plastic surgeon at Spire Cheshire Hospital.


The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional.

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Mr Gerard Lambe

Mr Gerard Lambe, cosmetic surgeon at Spire Cheshire Hospital

Mr Gerard Lambe is a consultant plastic surgeon at Spire Cheshire Hospital.

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