Over the years, factors such as pregnancy, nursing and the force of gravity take their toll on a woman’s breasts. As the skin loses its elasticity, the breasts often lose their shape and firmness and begin to sag.
Breast lift is a surgical procedure to raise and reshape the breasts (at least for a time).
If your breasts are small or have lost volume (for example from pregnancy) breast implants inserted in conjunction with mastopexy can increase both their firmness and their size.
A breast lift can enhance your appearance and your self confidence, but it won’t necessarily change your looks to match your ideal, or cause other people to treat you differently. Before you decide to have surgery, think carefully about your expectations and discuss them with your surgeon.
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Beauty for life:
Enhancing your appearance with a breast lift
A woman’s breasts often change over time, losing their youthful shape and firmness. These changes and loss of skin elasticity can result from:
- Weight fluctuations
Also known as mastopexy, a breast lift raises and firms the breast by removing excess skin and tightening the surrounding tissue to reshape and support the new breast contour. Sometimes the areola becomes enlarged over time, and a breast lift will reduce this as well. A breast lift can rejuvenate your figure with a breast profile that is youthful and uplifted.
What it won’t do
Breast lift surgery does not significantly change the size of your breasts or round out the upper part of your breast. If you want your breasts to look fuller or smaller, you might want to consider either breast augmentation or breast reduction surgery.
Is it right for me?
Breast lift surgery is a highly individualized procedure and you should do it for yourself, not to fulfill someone else’s desires or to try to fit any sort of ideal image. A breast lift is a good option for you if:
- You are physically healthy
- You don’t smoke
- You have realistic expectations
- You are bothered by the feeling that your breasts sag, have lost shape and volume
- Your breasts have a flatter, elongated shape, or are pendulous
- When unsupported, your nipples fall below the breast crease
- Your nipples and areolas point downward
- You have stretched skin and enlarged areolas
- One breast is lower than the other
What to expect during your consultation
The success and safety of your breast lift procedure depends very much on your complete candidness during your consultation. You’ll be asked a number of questions about your health, desires and lifestyle.
Be prepared to discuss:
- Why you want the surgery, your expectations and desired outcome
- Medical conditions, drug allergies and medical treatments
- Use of current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drugs
- Previous surgeries
- Family history of breast cancer and results of mammograms or previous biopsies
Dr. Foley may also:
- Evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
- Examine your breasts, and may take detailed measurements of their size and shape, skin quality, placement of your nipples and areolas
- Take photographs for your medical record
- Discuss your options and recommend a course of treatment
- Discuss likely outcomes of breast lift surgery and any risks or potential complications
- Discuss the use of anesthesia during your breast lift
Preparing for surgery
Prior to surgery, you may be asked to:
- Get lab testing or a medical evaluation
- Take certain medications or adjust your current medications
- Get a baseline mammogram before surgery and another one after surgery to help detect any future changes in your breast tissue
- Stop smoking well in advance of surgery
- Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding
Special instructions you receive will cover:
- What to do on the day of surgery
- Post-operative care and follow-up
Dr. Foley will also discuss where your procedure will be performed. Breast lift surgery may be performed in our accredited office-based surgical center or a hospital.
You’ll need help
If your breast lift is performed on an outpatient basis, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you to and from surgery and to stay with you for at least the first night following surgery.
What happens during breast lift surgery?
Your breast lift surgery can be achieved through a variety of incision patterns and techniques. The appropriate technique for you will be determined based on:
- Breast size and shape
- The size and position of your areolas
- The degree of breast sagging
- Skin quality and elasticity as well as the amount of extra skin
Step 1 – Anesthesia
Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedure. The choices include intravenous sedation and general anesthesia. Dr. Foley will recommend the best choice for you.
Step 2 – The incision
There are three recommended incision patterns:
- Around the areola and vertically down the areola to the breast crease
- Around the areola, vertically down from the breast crease and horizontally along the breast crease
Step 3 – Reshaping your breasts
After Dr. Foley makes the incisions:
- The underlying breast tissue is lifted and reshaped to improve breast contour and firmness
- The nipple and areola are repositioned to a natural, more youthful height
- If necessary, enlarged areolas are reduced by excising skin at the perimeter.
- Excess breast skin is removed to compensate for a loss of elasticity
Step 4 – Closing the incisions
After your breasts are reshaped and excess skin is removed, the remaining skin is tightened as the incisions are closed. Some incision lines resulting from breast lift are concealed in the natural breast contours; however, others are visible on the breast surface. Incision lines are permanent, but in most cases will face and significantly improve over time.
Sutures are layered deep within the breast tissue to create and support the newly shaped breasts. Sutures, skin adhesives and/or surgical tape may be used to close the skin.
Step 5 – See the results
The results of your breast lift surgery are immediately visible. Over time, post-surgical swelling will resolve and incision lines will fade. Satisfaction with your new image should continue to grow as you recover and realize the fulfillment of your goal for breasts which have been restored to a more youthful and uplifted position.
Important facts about the safety and risks of breast lift surgery
The decision to have breast lift surgery is extremely personal and you’ll have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications are acceptable. Dr. Foley will explain in detail the risks associated with surgery. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure you will undergo and any risks or potential complications.
The risks include:
- Unfavorable scarring
- Bleeding (hematoma)
- Poor healing of incisions
- Changes in nipple or breast sensation, which may be temporary or permanent
- Anesthesia risks
- Breast contour and shape irregularities
- Skin discoloration, permanent pigmentation changes, swelling and bruising
- Damage to deeper structures – such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and lungs – can occur and may be temporary or permanent
- Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, blood products, topical preparations or injected agents
- Breast asymmetry
- Fatty tissue deep in the skin could die (fat necrosis)
- Fluid accumulation
- Excessive firmness of the breast
- Potential partial or total loss of nipple or areola
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Blood clots
- Pain, which may persist
- Possibility of revisional surgery
More facts about the safety and risks
You should know that:
- Breast lift surgery can interfere with diagnostic procedures
- Breast and nipple piercing can cause an infection
- Breast lift surgery does not normally interfere with pregnancy, but if you are planning to have a baby, your breast skin may stretch and offset the results of mastopexy and you may have more difficulty breastfeeding after this operation
Where will my surgery be performed?
A breast lift procedure may be performed in our fully accredited office-based surgical facility or a hospital. Dr. Foley and the assisting staff will fully attend to your comfort and safety.
When you go home
If you experience shortness of breath, chest pains, or unusual heart beats, seek medical attention immediately. Should any of these complications occur, you may require hospitalization and additional treatment.
The practice of medicine and surgery is not an exact science. Although good results are expected, there is no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single surgical procedures and another surgery may be necessary.
Following Dr. Foley’s instructions is key to the success of your surgery. It is important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, abrasion, or motion during the time of healing. Dr. Foley will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself.
Be sure to ask questions: It’s very important to ask Dr. Foley questions about your breast lift procedure. It’s natural to feel some anxiety, whether it’s excitement for your anticipated new look or a bit of preoperative stress. Don’t be shy about discussing these feelings with Dr. Foley.
After your breast lift procedure is completed, dressings or bandages will be applied to the incisions. You’ll need to wear an elastic bandage or support bra to minimize swelling and support your breasts as they heal. A small, thin tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect.
You will be given specific instructions that may include: how to care for your breasts following surgery, medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the risk of infection, and when to follow up with Dr. Foley.
Be sure to ask Dr. Foley specific questions about what you can expect during your individual recovery period.
- Where will I be taken after my surgery is complete?
- What medication will I be given or prescribed after surgery?
- Will I have dressings/bandages after surgery?
When will they be removed?
- Are stitches removed? When?
- When can I resume normal activity and exercise?
- When do I return for follow-up care?
The results will be long-lasting
The final results of your beast lift will appear over the next few months as breast shape and position continue to settle. Incision lines are permanent, but will continue to fade over time.
The results of your breast lift surgery will be long-lasting. Over time, your breasts can continue to change due to aging and gravity. But, you’ll be able to retain your new look longer if you:
- Maintain your weight
- Keep a healthy lifestyle
Special note: While a breast lift does not usually affect breast function, if you are planning to become pregnant, discuss this with Dr. Foley. Changes that occur in the breasts during pregnancy can minimize or reverse the improvement a breast lift provides. Likewise, plans for significant weight loss should also be discussed.
How much will breast lift surgery cost?
Cost is always a consideration in elective surgery. Prices can vary greatly depending on the extent of the procedure, the combination of multiple procedures, and the time involved. You will receive a detailed quote following your consultation. Talk with the Foley Plastic Surgery Center staff about your payment options.
Cost may include:
- Surgeon’s fee
- Hospital or surgical facility costs
- Anesthesia fees
Most health insurance plans will not cover breast lift surgery, related complications or another surgery to revise the appearance of your breasts. You must carefully review your health insurance policy.
Your satisfaction involves more than a fee
When choosing a plastic surgeon for breast lift surgery, remember that the surgeon’s experience and your comfort with him or her are just as important as the final cost of the surgery.
Words to know
Areola: Pigmented skin surrounding the nipple.
Breast augmentation: Also known as augmentation mammaplasty, breast enlargement by surgery.
Breast lift: Also known as mastopexy; surgery to lift the breasts.
Breast reduction: Also known as reduction mammaplasty, reduction of breast size by surgery.
Excision: To remove the skin.
General anesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and after consciousness.
Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin.
Intravenous sedation: Sedatives administered by injection into a vein to help you relax.
Local anesthesia: A drug injected directly to the site of an incision during an operation to relieve pain.
Mammogram: An x-ray image of the breast.
Mastopexy: Surgery to lift the breasts.
Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together.