A woman's breasts may droop as a result of the natural effects of aging, heredity, gravity, pregnancy, breastfeeding or weight loss. A breast lift, also called a mastopexy, is performed to return youthful shape and lift to breasts that have sagged or lost volume and firmness.
What can a breast lift do for me?
Breast lifts rejuvenate the breasts by trimming excess skin and tightening supporting tissues to achieve an uplifted, youthful contour. After a mastopexy, the breasts are higher on the chest and firmer to the touch. Breast lifts can also reposition and reduce the size of the areola (the dark skin surrounding the nipple) which may have stretched or drooped.
Breast size does not change after a breast lift, nor does the fullness or roundness in the upper part of the breasts. Women who desire larger, smaller or more rounded breasts may want to consider a breast augmentation or breast reduction together with a breast lift.
Am I a good candidate for a breast lift?
The best candidates for breast lift are women whose breasts meet some or all of the following conditions:
- Breasts sag
- Breasts have lost shape or volume
- Breasts are flat, elongated, or pendulous (hanging)
- Breast skin and/or areola is stretched
- Nipples or areolas point downward
- Nipples or areolas are located in the breast crease when breasts are unsupported
- One breast is lower than the other
It is also very important that breast lift candidates:
- Maintain a stable weight
- Are generally healthy
- Do not smoke
- Discuss realistic goals with their plastic surgeon
Who should not consider a breast lift?
Women planning to have children are advised to postpone surgery, since pregnancy and nursing can counteract a breast lift's effects by stretching the skin.
Mastopexy does not affect breast size or upper fullness. Women who desire larger, smaller or more rounded breasts may want to consider a breast augmentation or breast reduction either together with a breast lift or instead of a breast lift.
How is a mastopexy performed?
Mastopexy may be performed in a hospital, an outpatient surgery center or a surgeon's office-based facility. It is usually done on an outpatient basis under general anesthesia, and lasts from 1 ½ to 3 ½ hours.
There are several types of incision methods that can be used when performing a breast lift. The technique a surgeon chooses depends on the patient's:
- Breast size and shape
- Degree of sagging
- Size and position of the areolas/nipples
- Amount of excess skin
- Skin quality
- And other factors.
The three most common incision types are two rings around the areola in a doughnut shape (small-incision mastopexy, generally only recommended for patients with small breasts and minimal sagging); around the areola and down to the breast crease in a lollipop shape; and the lollipop with an additional half-moon incision along the breast crease, in an anchor shape.
In all cases, breast lift surgery begins with administration of anesthesia or IV sedation. The surgeon makes the necessary incisions, and then he or she lifts and reshapes the breast tissue into its new, rejuvenated contour. He or she moves the nipple and areola higher on the breast and removes extra skin around the perimeter if the areola is enlarged. Finally, he or she trims the excess breast skin that resulted from poor elasticity. Stitches layered deep throughout the breast tissue support the lifted breasts.
When the mastopexy is complete, the skin is closed with stitches, tissue adhesive and/or surgical tape. Some of the incisions are hidden in the breast crease. Others will be visible. All scars will mature with time.
What is the recovery from a breast lift like?
After surgery, the breasts are wrapped with gauze dressings, and you may need to wear an elastic bandage or a surgical bra. After a few days, this is replaced with a soft support bra, which is worn 24 hours a day for about a month.
The breasts will probably be bruised, swollen, and uncomfortable after surgery, but this will pass in a few days. Any numbness in the breasts and nipples should lessen as swelling subsides. Stitches are removed after one to two weeks, and many patients return to work then.
Will I like the results of my breast lift?
If you agreed on realistic goals with your plastic surgeon, you should be very satisfied with the look of your lifted breasts. You will be able to see the results of your mastopexy immediately after surgery, and you may become even more satisfied as swelling goes down and incision lines fade.
What are the risks of mastopexy?
Possible complications of a breast lift include:
- Temporary or permanent numbness in the nipple or areola
- Uneven positioning or shape of breasts or nipples
- Widening of scars
- Poor incision healing
- Fluid buildup
- Breast hardening
- Damage or necrosis of breast tissues
- Need for revision surgery
Your plastic surgeon or their staff will discuss all the risks and benefits of a breast lift with you.