A breast lift is a surgical procedure to raise and reshape breasts that have sagged as a result of pregnancy, nursing, and the natural force of gravity. Mastopexy is not permanent – since no surgery can permanently delay the effects of gravity but it can reduce the size of the areola, the darker skin surrounding the nipple.

What happens during the procedure?

The procedure is usually performed in an outpatient surgical center, either operated by your surgeon or a hospital facility, and takes 1½ – 3½ hours, but depending on the extent of the procedure, it can take longer. If you are having more than one procedure, overnight hospitalization may be required.

Breast lift surgery can be performed under local anesthesia, along with intravenous sedation, or general anesthesia depending on your health, the extent of the procedure and whether you are having other procedures at the same time. 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.

Are there risks or potential side effects?

As with all surgeries, there is always a possibility of complications including infection, a reaction to the anesthesia, hematoma, seroma, nerve damage and the occurrence of asymmetries or irregularities. Should infection occur, your surgeon will prescribe a treatment with antibiotics. Bleeding and infection following a breast lift are uncommon, but can cause scars to widen. You can reduce your risks by closely following your physician’s advice both before and after surgery. Be sure to ask your surgeon about all of the risks associated with the procedure your considering before you make any decision.

A breast lift does leave noticeable, permanent scars. They often remain lumpy and red for months, then gradually become less obvious, sometimes eventually fading to thin white lines. Poor healing and wider scars are more common in smokers. The procedure can also leave you with unevenly positioned nipples, or a permanent loss of feeling in your nipples or breasts.

A breast lift will not make breasts firm forever–the effects of gravity, pregnancy, aging, and weight fluctuations will eventually take their toll again. Women who have breast implants along with their breast lift may find the results last longer.

What to expect post-procedure?

An elastic bandage or a surgical bra over gauze dressings must be worn after surgery. The breasts will be bruised, swollen, and uncomfortable for a several days, and the level of pain ranges from person to person.

The extent of the post-operative swelling and bruising is dependent on whether you tend to bruise or swell easily. The amount you can expect varies for each individual but past surgeries or injuries should be a good indication. Keep yourself elevated to limit the amount of swelling. Applying cold compresses, or ice packs can reduce swelling and relieve discomfort. Many patients use a water-tight plastic sandwich bag filled with frozen berries or peas. Regular icing is the key to relieving swelling.

Within a few days, a soft support bra will replace the bandages or surgical bra. This bra must be worn constantly for several weeks over a layer of gauze. The stitches will be removed after a week or two.

Breast skin can be very dry following surgery, careful application moisturizer several times a day can alleviate this somewhat. Some loss of feeling in your nipples and breast skin can occur, which is caused by the swelling after surgery. Feeling usually returns as the swelling subsides over the following six weeks. In some patients, however, it may last a year or more, and, occasionally, may be permanent.

As with any surgery, it is also sometimes normal to feel anxious or depressed in the days or weeks following the operation. If there is heavy bleeding or increased pain, be sure to inform your surgeon.

How soon does normal life resume?

Healing is individual. Some patients may be up and about in a day or two, but you shouldn’t plan on returning to work for at least two weeks. All patients should avoid lifting anything over your head for three to four weeks.

It is important to follow your surgeons 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 breast- feed, since your milk ducts and nipples will be left intact.

Who performs it?

A plastic surgeon normally performs a breast lift.

Are you a good candidate?

While breast lift surgery can improve a woman’s body image and self-esteem, it does not remedy pre- existing psychological and personal problems. As with all elective surgery, good health and realistic expectations are prerequisites, however, if you want to change the look of your breasts then this procedure may be appropriate, but:

• 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.

• Losing a significant amount of weight, getting pregnant, or breastfeeding after a breast lift can reverse the effects of this procedure.

• This procedure is not advisable for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

• Make sure to tell your surgeon about any and all medical conditions and any allergies you may have as well as all medications, herbal supplements or natural supplements you are taking (both prescription and non-prescription) and whether you smoke.

• Make sure you are not prone to scarring problems such as keloids

• Make sure you have a good understanding of the healing process and the limitations of the procedure.

How to prepare for this procedure? Your doctor will give you specific instructions to prepare for surgery but here are some general guidelines:

• Avoid aspirin, any aspirin containing medication or any other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAID), such as Motrin® or Advil®, for two weeks prior to treatment. Because aspirin thins the blood, it can interfere with normal blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding and bruising.

• Smoking inhibits the healing process, so stop smoking before your procedure and if you start again, make sure it is after you are completely healed.

• Avoid drinking alcohol a few days before your surgery.

• Make sure to follow any fasting instructions the night before and morning of your surgery. Your doctor may insist on an empty stomach depending on the type of anesthesia.

• Make sure that you arrange for someone to bring you home and to help you out for 24 hours after surgery.