Angie's LIST Guide to
Breast Surgery

Women and some men can seek three types of cosmetic breast surgery: breast augmentation, breast lift and breast reduction. Most surgeries are considered elective procedures and can be performed at a surgery clinic or in a hospital.


illlustration of breast augmentation
Breast surgery is becoming more common among men and women to want to change the size or shape of their breast. (Angie's List Staff)

Breast augmentation

Breast augmentation, also referred to as an augmentation mammaplasty, is a procedure designed to increase the size of the breasts with breast implants. Women may choose to undergo breast augmentation if they want to increase their natural breast size or if they wish to replace volume lost as a result of breastfeeding, pregnancy, weight loss or breast cancer surgery.

Breast implants are most commonly filled with silicone or saline. During the most common type of breast augmentation procedure, a surgeon makes an incision on the underside of the breast and inserts the implant through this opening. Surgeons can also make incisions under the patient's arms, around the areolas or near the belly button. Finding the right surgeon to perform this type of procedure is essential, so be sure to visit Angie's List for highly rated doctors in your area.

Four different placement options for breast implants—subglandular, subfascial, subpectoral and submuscular—refer to where doctor places the implant in comparison to the muscle and breast tissue.

Typically, patients can return home as soon as their anesthesia wears off. Special bandaging or a surgical bra is required after surgery. The surgical staff may keep patients at the hospital overnight if required. The majority of breast augmentation patients can resume work one week after their surgery. Scarring will fade over a period of months.

Breast lift

A breast lift, also referred to as a mastopexy, lifts and firms up breasts. Breast sagging, or ptosis, occurs for several reasons, including gravity, hormonal changes and aging skin. A breast lift can also change the position of the nipple on the breast.

There are three medical stages of breast sagging: Grade I is considered mild ptosis, Grade II is moderate and Grade III is severe. The type of procedure used depends on how severe the ptosis is.

The types of incision have nicknames based on the way they look: anchor, lollipop, donut and crescent. The anchor is the oldest, most invasive technique, and it results in more scarring than the other techniques, but it is also works best for those who need a more extreme lift.

Breast lifts are often performed at the same time as breast augmentations or breast reductions. Combining a breast lift procedure with a breast augmentation increases the chance of complications occurring. Simultaneous Augmentation Mastopexy is a newly developed technique in which a surgeon performs the two procedures at the same time while minimizing any increase in complications.

Patients have to wear a surgical bra or special bandaging after surgery. Most patients should be able to return to light work after one to two weeks. Scars will fade over a period of several months to a year.

Breast reduction

Breast reduction, also referred to as reduction mammaplasty, is a surgical procedure designed to reduce the size of the breasts. Enlarged breasts can cause back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, impaired breathing, skin irritation and other health problems. Women with breasts that vary in size may also want breast reduction. Men who suffer from gynecomastia, or male-developed enlarged breasts, might seek breast reduction. 

Doctors describe techniques by the type of surgical incision used during the procedure. Two incisions common to breast lift procedures are also common in breast reduction: anchor and lollipop. Other methods for breast reduction include the pedicle method, the free nipple graft method, the LeJour incision method and the Steven Laser bra. The size of the breasts and the amount of reduction required will affect which methods doctors can use most effectively.

Recovery time varies depending on the surgical method used. The surgical team typically discharges patients from the hospital on the day of their procedure or the next day. Breasts will be wrapped in bandages or a surgical bra. If the surgeon moved the nipples during surgery, loss of nipple sensation can be permanent. Typically, patients can return to light work within two to three weeks.

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