Breast reduction surgery 'improves wellbeing'

02 August 2013

Breast reduction surgery can significantly improve patients' quality of life and boost their physical and mental wellbeing, a study has found.

Researchers at Ohio State University in the US, led by Dr Michelle Coriddi at the university's Wexner Medical Centre, used a validated survey tool called the BREAST-Q questionnaire to assess the physical and psychosocial health benefits of breast reduction surgery.

According to the study authors, the BREAST-Q is the only questionnaire to assess breast reduction surgery outcomes that meets international standards, enabling the researchers to obtain a complete picture of outcomes.

It evaluated four key areas: satisfaction with the appearance of the breasts following surgery, psychosocial wellbeing, sexual wellbeing and physical wellbeing.

The questionnaire was given to 49 patients who were having a breast reduction procedure between January 2008 and May 2009, 78 per cent of whom agreed to complete the survey before and after their surgery.

Patients had an average age of 36.3 years and an average body mass index (BMI) of 31.8.

They typically had between 633 and 650g of tissue removed from each breast.

Results show there were significant improvements in all four of the key areas assessed.

For instance, on a 100-point scale, the average patient's satisfaction with the appearance of their breasts increased from about 20 prior to surgery to more than 80 afterwards.

Satisfaction with breast appearance was significantly associated with satisfaction with the overall outcome of the operation.

Ratings for psychosocial wellbeing rose from 41 to 84, on average, while sexual wellbeing scores increased from 40 to 78.

Finally, the average patient reported an improved physical wellbeing score - increasing from 43 to 81 - with breast reduction surgery typically leading to reduced pain in the breasts, neck, back and shoulders.

Not only that, but patients who underwent the procedure tended to experience improvements in the quality of their sleep and their ability to engage in physical activity.

Previous studies have suggested that the procedure is effective at relieving physical symptoms, but the latest research should help to confirm the benefits for those making funding decisions, as at present many patients who wish to undergo breast reduction surgery are required to self-pay.

Complications affected seven of the 38 patients who completed the questionnaire, with four experiencing small ruptures of their surgical wound during healing, two suffering partial nipple loss and one requiring antibiotic treatment for a wound infection.

Publishing their findings in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the study authors concluded: "In this study, we have shown that breast reduction significantly improves satisfaction with breast appearance and psychosocial, sexual and physical wellbeing, and that overall patient satisfaction is most strongly correlated with satisfaction in [the] appearance of their breasts."

They also noted that patients typically start to notice the benefits of breast reduction surgery in as little as six weeks after their operation.

Furthermore, even relatively small reductions in breast size can lead to significant improvements in physical and mental wellbeing.

The researchers now plan to continue their studies by getting larger numbers of patients to complete the questionnaire and by surveying them over longer periods of time to see if the benefits of breast reduction surgery are lasting.

Posted by Edward Bartel


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