Step by Step: Breast reduction

Posted by: Cosmetic Surgery Partners


Breast reduction surgery involves removing tissue and skin from the breasts in order to make them smaller. This type of surgery may be necessary if you have large breasts which are causing discomfort – e.g. bra strap grooves in shoulders, back and neck pain – or in order to even  out your breasts if one is significantly larger than the other.

Generally, breast reduction surgery makes life easier for a lot of people as it increases their self-confidence which allows them to take part in activities that they wouldn’t have before – this is especially true for sport and physical exercise.

Although it’s possible for men to have breast reduction surgery, it’s different to the operation that is undergone by a female and is known as gynaecomastia.

Pre-operation advice

It’s important never to rush into any kind of surgery and you should always discuss any ideas with your GP first as they’ll be able to give you advice and could also recommend a reputable surgeon or a specific hospital.

Before going under the knife you should also consider the result of surgery. Have a real think about the breast size you’ll be happy with and also about how this size will alter the overall appearance of your body.

Body weight is one of the main dictators of breast size so, if you’re overweight, you may be advised to lose weight before surgery. Be aware that if you put on weight or became pregnant after surgery, then there’s a chance that your breast size could again increase.

Preparing for surgery

Your surgeon will give you all of the information you need to prepare for your surgery properly. Be aware that if you smoke then you’ll be advised to stop because smoking increases the risk of infection.

You will usually need to be put under general anaesthesia, so you’ll be asleep for the whole procedure. You may also be asked to fast before the procedure; this involves refraining from eating and drinking for a period of time before the procedure. The time will be typically six hours before, although this could vary so always follow your surgeon’s specific advice.

You will need a new bra to wear immediately after your operation. Your surgeon will give you advice on the style and size of bra you should be wearing straight after surgery – be aware, this might not be the most glamorous.

Once you arrive at the hospital your heart rate and blood pressure may be checked. Your surgeon will then run through exactly what will happen before, during and after your surgery and will answer any questions that you may have.

They will then mark your breasts with pen in order to help them in surgery. This will be a guide to help establish the size and shape that you desire. They may also wish to photograph you breasts before surgery so that you can see the ‘before and after’ results when you have fully recovered.

As you’ll be required to stay in hospital you are likely to be asked to wear compression stockings to help blood clots from forming in your legs.

During surgery

There are a number of ways that a breast reduction operation can be carried out and your surgeon will discuss the best option for you during one of your initial consultation.

A standard breast reduction operation typically takes between two and four hours. Your surgeon will make cuts in the lower breast so that they can remove any excess breast tissue. They will then move the nipple – to make it fit the new breast – and reshape your breast. Once the desired shape has been achieved, the surgeon will stitch up the wounds and either wrap your breasts in a support bandage or apply a special support bra.

When you awaken you may find a small plastic tube coming out of each breast; these are generally kept in place for around 48 hours after the operation in order to drain any excess blood or fluid.

What happens afterwards?

You should expect a stay in hospital; usually this will be for between one and four days after the operation. You will probably require pain relief to ease any discomfort that you might be feeling and you could be prescribed antibiotics for the first few days after you operation.

If you’ve been fitted with a supportive dressing then this will be replaced during your hospital stay and can then be removed after around a week. After this you’ll be advised to wear a support bra, during the day and at night, to stop the weight of your breasts from pulling the wound.

If you have any stitches that need to be removed then an appointment will be made for around seven to 14 days after your operation. If you have dissolvable stitches then the amount of time they take to disappear will vary.


Although recovery time will vary from case to case, the majority of people are back to normal within six weeks.

If, when you leave hospital, you still require pain relief then over-the-counter remedies like ibuprofen and paracetamol will do the trick.

During your initial appointment your surgeon should give you advice detailing when you should be able to return to work and taking part in your usual activities. Most people require between two and four weeks off work, although this is entirely dependent on your job and will vary between cases.

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