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Over the years, factors such as pregnancy, nursing, and the force of gravity take their toll on a woman’s breasts. As skin loses its elasticity, the breasts often lose their shape and firmness and begin to sag. Breast lift—or mastopexy—is a surgical procedure to raise and reshape sagging breasts. Mastopexy can also reduce the size of the areola, the darker skin surrounding the nipple. If your breasts are small or have lost volume, a breast lift along with implants can increase firmness and size. Always remember: individual results vary. Before you decide to have surgery, think carefully about your expectations and discuss them with your surgeon.
The best candidates for mastopexy are healthy, emotionally-stable women who are realistic about what the surgery can accomplish. The best results are usually achieved in women with small, sagging breasts. Breasts of any size can be lifted, but the results may not last as long in heavy breasts.
Your surgeon will examine your breasts and measure them while you’re sitting or standing. He or she will discuss variables that may affect the procedure–such as your age, the size and shape of your breasts, the condition of your skin and whether an implant is advisable. You should also discuss where the nipple and areola will be positioned.
Your surgeon will describe the procedure in detail, explain risks and limitations and make sure you understand the scarring that will result. He or she will also explain the anesthesia to be used, the type of facility where the surgery will be performed, and the costs involved.
Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor any questions you may have, especially those regarding your expectations and concerns about the results.
Depending on your age and family history, your surgeon may require you to have a mammogram (breast x-ray) before surgery. You’ll also get specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery, including guidelines on eating and drinking, smoking, and taking or avoiding certain vitamins and medications.
While you’re making preparations, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after your surgery and to help you out for a few days if needed.
Your breast lift will usually be performed in one of the AAAASF certified operating rooms in the offices at Piedmont Plastic Surgery and Dermatology. Each of our certified operating rooms must adhere to strict standards of safety, but also provide patients with personalized care and privacy.
Breast lifts are usually performed under general anesthesia, which means you’ll sleep through the operation. You will then spend about one to two hours in the recovery room before being discharged home with your caregiver.
Mastopexy usually takes one-and-a-half to three-and-a-half hours. Techniques vary, but the most common procedure involves an anchor-shaped incision following the natural contour of the breast.
The incision outlines the area from which breast skin will be removed and defines the new location for the nipple. When the excess skin has been removed, the nipple and areola are moved to the higher position. The skin surrounding the areola is then brought down and together to reshape the breast. Stitches are usually located around the areola, in a vertical line extending downwards from the nipple area, and along the lower crease of the breast.
Some patients, especially those with relatively small breasts and minimal sagging, may be candidates for modified procedures requiring less extensive incisions. One such procedure is the “doughnut (or concentric) mastopexy,” in which circular incisions are made around the areola, and a doughnut-shaped area of skin is removed.
If you’re having an implant inserted along with your breast lift, it will be placed in a pocket directly under the breast tissue, or deeper, under the muscle of the chest wall.
After surgery, you’ll wear an elastic bandage or a surgical bra over gauze dressings. Your breasts will be bruised, swollen, and uncomfortable for a day or two, but the pain shouldn’t be severe. Any discomfort you do feel can be relieved with medications prescribed by your surgeon.
Within a few days, the bandages or surgical bra will be replaced by a soft support bra. You’ll need to wear this bra around the clock for three to four weeks. The stitches will be removed after a week or two.
If your breast skin is very dry following surgery, you can apply a moisturizer several times a day. Be careful not to tug at your skin in the process, and keep the moisturizer away from the suture areas.
You can expect some loss of feeling in your nipples and breast skin, caused by the swelling after surgery. This numbness usually fades as the swelling subsides over the next six weeks or so. In some patients, however, it may last a year or more, and occasionally it may be permanent.
A breast lift is not a simple operation, but it’s normally safe when performed by a qualified plastic surgeon. Nevertheless, as with any surgery, there is always a possibility of complications or a reaction to the anesthesia. Bleeding and infection following a breast lift are uncommon, but they can cause scars to widen. You can reduce your risks by closely following your physician’s advice both before and after surgery.
While mastopexy does leave noticeable, permanent scars they’ll be covered by your bra or bathing suit. The procedure can also leave you with unevenly positioned nipples, or a permanent loss of feeling in your nipples or breasts.
Healing is a gradual process. Although you may be up and about in a day or two, don’t plan on returning to work for a week or more, depending on how you feel. Avoid lifting anything over your head for three to four weeks. If you have any unusual symptoms, don’t hesitate to call your surgeon.
Your surgeon will give you detailed instructions for resuming your normal activities. You may be instructed to avoid sex for a week or more, and to avoid strenuous sports for about a month. After that, you can resume these activities slowly. If you become pregnant, the operation should not affect your ability to breastfeed, since your milk ducts and nipples will be left intact.
Your surgeon will make every effort to make your scars as inconspicuous as possible. Still, it’s important to remember that mastopexy scars are noticeable and permanent. They often remain lumpy and red for months, then gradually become less obvious, sometimes eventually fading to thin white lines. Fortunately, the scars can usually be placed so that you can wear even low-cut tops.
You should also keep in mind that a breast lift won’t keep you firm forever–the effects of gravity, pregnancy, aging, and weight fluctuations will eventually take their toll again. Women who have implants along with their breast lift may find the results last longer.