Breast reduction

Risks associated with breast reduction

The possible complications of any operation include an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic, excessive bleeding or developing a blood clot. Complications specific to breast reduction surgery are described below.

Scarring

The main disadvantage of having breast reduction surgery is that you will be left with permanent scarring. The operation, when done using the anchor technique, leaves three scars:

  • one around the nipple (areola)
  • one from the nipple to the crease below the breast (this is the worst scar as it takes the most tension)
  • one from the breast bone to the armpit along the crease below the breast

The severity of scarring largely depends on the individual. Some women are left with red and raised scars but most scars fade over time and should be invisible under normal clothing and most bras or bikini tops.

Uneven shape

Your breasts will change shape after reduction surgery. There is a chance that they may end up slightly lopsided, lumpy or with uneven nipples.

Wound healing problems

Wound healing problems after breast reduction surgery are common, particularly after the anchor scar procedure where the vertical and horizontal scars meet.

Most wound problems are minor and can be simply managed and treated. More severe wound complications, such as infection, skin loss, wound separation and delayed healing, can be harder to manage.

Occasionally, some fat in the breasts dies off, leaving them red and lumpy. This can take some time to settle and lead to a lot of discomfort. There can also be some excess skin left around the scars and, if this does not drop off after a few months, it will need to be surgically removed.

If you smoke or have diabetes, you may have poor circulation which will affect how quickly your wounds heal.

Loss of nipple sensation 

Some women lose sensation in their nipples after a breast reduction, including their ability to become erect. This is because the nerve supply to the nipple can be damaged during surgery.

Very rarely, a disrupted blood supply may cause your nipple to die and fall off. This is more likely if you are a heavy smoker or you have poor circulation.

Depending on the type of breast reduction you have, if your nipples have been separated from the milk ducts during the operation, you may be unable to breastfeed after the operation.

Infection

Any kind of surgical procedure carries a potential risk of infection. In the case of breast reduction surgery, there is a chance of infection from germs in the ducts of the breasts. This can be treated with antibiotics and sometimes further surgery. If you do get an infection after your surgery, this will delay the healing process.

Haematoma

If the tubes attached to your breasts do not remove all of the blood after the operation, blood may begin to collect under your breasts, causing them to become very painful. This is called a haematoma. If this happens, you may need to have another operation to drain the blood and stop the bleeding.

Glossary

Discharge
Discharge is when a liquid such as pus oozes from a part of your body.
Haematoma
Haematoma is a collection of blood in the tissues from a leaking blood vessel, which causes bruising.
Antibiotics
Antibiotics are medicines that can be used to treat infections caused by micro-organisms, usually bacteria or fungi. Examples of antibiotics include amoxicillin, streptomycin and erythromycin.
Anaesthetic
Anaesthetic is a drug used to either numb a part of the body (local) or to put a patient to sleep (general) during surgery.
Blood
Blood supplies oxygen to the body and removes carbon dioxide. It is pumped around the body by the heart.
HRT
Hormone replacement therapy or HRT involves giving hormones to women when the menopause starts to replace those that the body no longer produces.
Last updated: 04 October 2011

Continue to next section: Male breast reduction