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Medically Reviewed by:

Robert Applebaum M.D.

Breast Reduction: Recovery and What To Expect

Even though breast augmentations seem to be all the rage, many people could potentially benefit from a breast reduction. Depending on your breast size, medical history, or medical conditions, a breast reduction could be an option. If you have considered a breast reduction, talk to your physician about your options and insurance coverage. 

Essentially, large breasts can prevent physical activity while causing back, shoulders, and neck pain discomfort. It can also cause skin irritation like rashes. Over time, this level of constant pain and discomfort can negatively impact the quality of life. So if you believe that a breast reduction could improve your quality of life, here’s everything you need to know about the procedure: 

What Is a Breast Reduction?

A breast reduction surgery, also known as a reduction mammaplasty, involves removing excess breast fat, glandular tissue, and skin from the chest. This surgery is performed in patients with disproportionately large breasts that can have negative physical and emotional effects. 

In terms of physical effects, large breasts can cause pain, discomfort and prevent physical activity. In terms of emotional effects, large breasts can negatively impact confidence and self-esteem. 

This is a very common procedure that can provide patients with life-changing and instant results. In the United States, more than 90,000 reduction mammoplasties are performed each year. 

Who Is a Good Candidate for a Breast Reduction?

Not everyone is a good candidate for breast reduction. While the best way to determine if you are a good candidate for this procedure is to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon, you may be a good candidate for a breast reduction if:

  • You feel that your breasts are too large.
  • Your breasts are so large that you feel they limit your physical activity.
  • The size of your breasts is causing back, neck, and shoulder pain.
  • Bra straps tend to cause shoulder indentations.
  • The creases underneath your breasts tend to get irritated.

Additionally, good candidates are physically healthy individuals, do not smoke, and have realistic expectations of the procedure. 

What Are the Risks of a Breast Reduction?

There are risks involved with any procedure. You need to talk with a plastic surgeon to determine if the benefits from the surgery are worth the potential risks. Here are some things to keep in mind when making this determination:

  • Breast reduction surgery usually does not interfere with certain diagnostic procedures, such as mammography. 
  • Breast and nipple piercings can cause an infection — so these piercings may need to be removed prior to surgery. .
  • Breast reduction surgery can potentially affect your ability to breastfeed, so consider if you are planning to nurse a baby after the procedure. 
  • Although a breast reduction surgery can be performed at any age, the best time to perform the surgery is after the breasts are fully developed — around age 18 or later.  In some cases there is an indication to perform breast reduction surgery before age 18. .
  • The results and overall appearance of a breast reduction can be changed or otherwise affected by pregnancy and significant weight fluctuations. 

Here are some of the possible risks  most of which are uncommon associated with breast reduction surgery: 

  • Anesthesia risks
  • Bleeding after the procedure. 
  • Breast asymmetry
  • Breast contour and shape irregularities
  • Changes in nipple or breast sensation that can be temporary or permanent
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Excessive firmness of the breast
  • Fluid accumulation
  • Infection 
  • Pain 
  • Poor wound healing
  • Potential, partial, or total loss of nipple and areola
  • Skin discoloration, permanent pigmentation changes, swelling and bruising
  • Unfavorable scarring

What To Expect During a Breast Reduction?

There are a few different techniques that are used in breast reduction surgery. Your surgeon will choose the best technique for your base based on your condition, breast composition, and amount of reduction desired. 

After general anesthesia is administered, your surgeon will move forward with one of three different incisions:

  • Lollipop  incision: A circular incision is made around the areola and then carried down to the breast crease. 
  • Anchor incision: A circular incision is made around the areola, then carried down to the breast crease and extended in a curve around the bottom of the breast. 

Once the incision is made, the surgeon will move forward with removing breast tissue as needed. During this process, the nipple is repositioned and left attached to the underlying breast tissue. After that, the incisions are closed with sutures underneath the skin and with skin adhesives or surgical tape on the skin. These incision lines are permanent, but most fade significantly over time. 

How To Recover After a Breast Reduction?

Recovery is different for every patient, but it’s still helpful to have a good idea of the process. Most patients can expect an overall recovery timeframe of two to six weeks. 

The first week of recovery will be the hardest, and you will need to stay home from work during this time. You will also require help with basic tasks, including meal  preparation, housework, grocery shopping, child care, etc., during this time. Finally, you will also not be able to drive during the first 5-7 days as you will not wear a seatbelt comfortably. 

During recovery, you will be given a post-operative bra that you will need to wear at all times, except when showering. You should take your pain medications as prescribed to minimize pain. You should avoid any and all strenuous activity — including lifting heavy objects like grocery bags, heavy household items, vacuum cleaners, etc. 

However, you should incorporate gentle walking into your daily schedule to promote blood flow to your healing tissues. 

How To Find a Surgeon for a Breast Reduction?

The ease of your recovery and the overall results of the procedure are highly dependent upon the skill and experience of your plastic surgeon. As a result, it’s extremely important to find a reputable and certified plastic surgeon for your procedure that performs breast reduction surgery on a regular basis. However, finding such a surgeon is easier said than done. 

If you don’t know where to start, you may want to ask family and friends if they have ever used a plastic surgeon that they would recommend. If you cannot get any personal recommendations, the next best place to look is online. You can easily search for certified surgeons in your area through the American Society of Plastic Surgeons

If you choose to look elsewhere, make sure that the surgeon is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Bonus points should be awarded for professional affiliations organizations like the International Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery. The last thing you need to check out is our patient reviews. Make sure that they are overwhelmingly positive and that they receive an excellent level of care. 

So if you’re looking for the best plastic surgeon in Los Angeles that meets all these qualifications and then some, you need to schedule a consultation with Dr. Robert Applebaum. Dr. Applebaum has nearly 30 years of practice in the field of plastic surgery. He was nominated as one of the Best Breast Surgeons in America in 2016. Reach out today to schedule an in-person or virtual consultation

Questions To Ask Potential Surgeons During the Consultation

Once you have identified a few qualified plastic surgeons for your breast reduction procedure, you need to schedule a consultation with them. During this consultation, you need to be prepared with specific questions to ask the plastic surgeon. Here are some of the questions you may want to ask to make sure it’s the right fit: 

  • Where and how will you perform my breast reduction procedure? Dr. Applebaum performs outpatient surgical procedures at his in-office surgery center The Four Thirty Six Aesthetic Surgery Center. This facility was opened in 1996 to perform safe, outpatient plastic surgery procedures in a private, office-based setting. 
  • Does a nationally or state-recognized accrediting agency accredit the office-based surgical facility? Four Thirty-Six Aesthetic Surgery Center is fully accredited by the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgical Facilities (AAAASF) — the ambulatory health care accreditation leader. 
  • Do you have hospital privileges to perform this procedure? If so, at which hospitals? Dr. Applebaum is an active medical staff member and performs reconstructive surgery at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. 
  • Am I a good candidate for breast reduction?
  • What surgical technique is recommended for me?
  • What will be expected of me to get the best results from breast reduction surgery? 
  • How are breast reduction complications handled?
  • How will breast reduction affect my ability to breastfeed?
  • How can I expect my breasts to look over time? After pregnancy? After breastfeeding? 
  • Do you have any before or after photos I could look at to get an idea of my results? 

The Rundown on Breast Reductions

Breast reduction is a safe and effective procedure that instantly improves patients’ confidence and quality of life. The recovery is relatively easy so long as you use a qualified and experienced plastic surgeon. Reach out to Dr. Applebaum today for a breast reduction consultation to see if it’s the right solution for you. 


Medically reviewed by Dr. Robert Applebaum

Dr. Robert Applebaum is a world renowned and highly respected Plastic Surgeon who is Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. In his nearly 30 years as a practicing physician, Dr. Applebaum has become known as an innovator in the field of laser technology techniques for plastic surgery procedures. He has published numerous articles and scientific papers about the use of laser technology and educates physicians worldwide on the applications of laser technology for plastic surgery. Dr. Applebaum primarily practices out of his private outpatient surgery center, Four Thirty Six Aesthetic Surgery Center, which is located in Beverly Hills.


Breast Reduction Surgery | Mayo Clinic

Breast Reduction Surgery Guide | American Board of Cosmetic Surgery

Find a Plastic Surgeon | American Society of Plastic Surgeons

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