Breast Reduction
all information

Breast Reduction

(Reduction Mammoplasty)

En Español (Spanish Version)


Surgery to decrease the size or to improve shape of one or both breasts

Parts of the Body Involved


Reasons for Procedure

  • Overly large breasts, resulting in:
    • Poor body image
    • Back, neck, and shoulder pain
    • Posture problems
    • Abrasions/lacerations from bra straps
  • Asymmetric breasts, due to growth pattern or previous surgery to one breast (eg mastectomy or lumpectomy)
  • Abnormal growth in a male breast, called gynecomastia

Risk Factors for Complications During the Procedure

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

You may be asked to look through an album of breast sizes and shapes to help the surgeon understand the outcome you desire.

Your physician will likely do the following:

  • Physical exam, including breast exam
  • Blood tests
  • Mammogram
  • Take "before" pictures

In the days leading up to your procedure:

  • Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.
  • Arrange for help at home after the procedure.
  • The night before, eat a light meal and do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • You may be asked to shower the morning of your procedure, and you may be given special antibacterial soap to use.


General or local

Description of the Procedure

The surgeon cuts around the nipple and areola. Fat and breast tissue are removed and excess skin is trimmed. Depending on how much breast tissue is removed, the surgeon may need to reposition the nipple and areola higher up on the remaining breast tissue. Additional incisions may also be needed. Liposuction, a vacuum procedure to remove excess fat, may also be used.

Depending on how extensive an operation is required, the surgeon may place a small flexible tube in one or both breasts to drain any fluid build-up during the early phases of healing. These drains may need to stay in place for several days.

The incisions in the breast are closed with tiny stitches. After surgery on one breast is completely finished, the same steps are taken to reduce the other breast.

Breast Reduction Procedure

Nucleus factsheet image

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

After Procedure

You'll be tightly bandaged around your chest, or you'll wear a special surgical bra to provide pressure and support.

How Long Will It Take?

2-4 hours

Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia prevents pain during the surgery. You will have tenderness, swelling, and bruising of the breasts for several weeks after surgery.

Possible Complications

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Loss of sensation to the breast, nipple, and/or areola
  • Possible inability to breastfeed, especially if surgery involves moving the nipple and areola
  • Asymmetry between breasts
  • Restricted arm and/or shoulder movement
  • Scarring
  • Fluid- and/or blood-filled cysts may develop in the healing breast tissue

Average Hospital Stay

0-4 days

Postoperative Care

  • Wear a special surgical bra that applies pressure. This will properly shape your breast(s) after the operation.
  • If drains have been placed in either breast, they'll be removed 2-4 days after surgery.
  • Stitches are usually removed about 7-10 days after surgery.
  • Your doctor will probably advise you to avoid heavy lifting, straining, or strenuous exercise for the first week or two after surgery.


Your breasts will be smaller. They should reflect the size, shape, and symmetry that you desired.

Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occurs

  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site in either breast
  • Nausea and/or vomiting that you can't control with the medications you were given after surgery, or which persist for more than two days after discharge from the hospital
  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, or severe nausea or vomiting
  • You notice stiffness or pain when moving your arm
  • Abnormal scarring
  • Fluid- or blood-filled cysts developing in either breast
  • You have concerns about the size and/or shape of your breasts
  • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs, sudden shortness of breath or chest pain


American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

American Society of Plastic Surgeons


Canadian Society of Plastic Surgery

Guide to Breast Augmentation in Canada


Breast reduction (reduction mammoplasty). Mayo Clinic website. Available at: Accessed June 10, 2008.

Sabiston DC. Textbook of Surgery. 17th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Co.; 2003.

Sabiston DC. Textbook of Surgery. 15th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Co.; 1997.

Last reviewed October 2007 by Ronald Nath, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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