Breast Lift Surgery (Mastopexy): What You Need to Know

Lift and Reshape Sagging Breasts

Woman in bra measuring bust line. Credit: Vstock / Getty Images

A mastopexy, or breast lift, is a surgical procedure that lifts and reshapes sagging breasts. A mastopexy trims excess skin and tightens supporting tissue. Breasts can be raised higher on the chest and become firmer to the touch. In addition, a mastopexy can reposition or resize the areola to enhance the appearance of the breasts. A mastopexy does not change the size of the breast but it is often combined with a breast augmentation or breast reduction procedure.

Candidates for Mastopexy

Candidates for breast lift surgery should be in good health, maintain a stable weight and have realistic expectations about the outcome of the procedure. Most patients who undergo a mastopexy have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Breasts that sag
  • Breasts that have lost shape or volume
  • Breasts that are pendulous or have a flat or elongated shape
  • Nipples that point downward
  • Breasts that are positioned asymmetrically

Women who are planning to have children should not undergo a mastopexy because pregnancy and nursing can affect the size and shape of the breasts.

The Mastopexy Procedure

Before the procedure, the surgeon will usually order pre-operative tests to confirm the status of the patient’s health. Certain medications may need to be stopped prior to the procedure. The patient may be asked to have a mammogram.

The mastopexy procedure is typically performed on an outpatient basis.

The procedure normally takes one to three hours.  The surgical approach will depend on the size and shape of the breasts, as well as the amount of excess skin and sagging.

One of the following incisions is often used:

  • For smaller breasts, two rings are made around the areola
  • A keyhole shape around the areola and down to the crease of the breast
  • For breasts with significant sagging, an anchor shape that begins in the crease of the breast and extends up to and around the areola

After the incision is made, the breast tissue is removed and reshaped so that the contour of the breast is achieved. The nipple and areola are placed. Excess skin is trimmed so that the breast has a tighter and more defined look.

Recovery from Mastopexy

After a mastopexy, there is likely to be bruising, soreness and swelling in the surgical area. Breasts will be wrapped in a surgical bandage or surgical bra for a week or more. Afterwards a support bra will need to be worn for a period of time. Surgical stitches will be removed after one to two weeks.

Most patients can return to non-strenuous work after 10 days. Strenuous work or exercise should not be resumed until at least 3 to 4 weeks have passed.  Patients should continue to be extremely gentle with their breasts for the next several weeks. As with all surgery, it is important to understand that these guidelines can vary widely based on the patient’s personal health, the techniques used, and other variable factors surrounding the surgery.

Any severe pain should be reported to the doctor.

Results of Mastopexy

The results of a mastopexy will be seen immediately. As the swelling lessens, the breasts will continue to improve in their appearance.

Risks and Complications of Mastopexy

While there are risks with any surgical procedure and anesthesia, risks specific to the mastopexy procedure include:

  • A change in sensation to the nipple or breast
  • Breast contour or shape irregularities
  • Asymmetry
  • A partial or total loss of the areola or nipple

A mastopexy can produce visible scars. Some of the incisions can be hidden in the crease of the breast but others cannot. Over time, most scars will fade.

Additional Resources

Breast Lift, Consumer Information Sheet, American Society for Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery; http://www.surgery.org

Breast Lift, Consumer Information Sheet, American Society of Plastic Surgeons; http://www.plasticsurgery.org

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