What is breast lift surgery?
Mastopexy, commonly referred to as breast lift surgery, meticulously eliminates extra tissue to lift drooping breasts, giving them a perkier appearance. This procedure not only lifts the areolas to a more desirable position but might also include resizing the areola and nipple.
Sagging breasts are among the most popular issues addressed by cosmetic surgeons, as indicated by a 2010 study focusing on breast ptosis. Age, childbirth, and changes in weight are the typical culprits behind breast sagging, all causing reduced skin elasticity.
If conducted as an independent procedure, a mastopexy will reduce the breast size due to the elimination of surplus skin and tissue. However, for those desiring to maintain or increase their breast size, a breast lift can be paired with augmentation techniques, such as implants or fat transfers.
Often, a breast lift is included as part of a broader package, such as a mummy makeover, or may accompany other body-contouring procedures, like a tummy tuck or liposuction focusing on the fat deposit around the upper back and in front of the armpits.
Melon Hint: The Vampire breast a nonsurgical technique merges PRP with dermal fillers to reduce wrinkles, scars, and stretch marks while adding a small volume increase. Despite its intriguing name, this treatment offers minimal long-term advantages and lacks the potency to counteract moderate to intense sagging in the same way a breast lift can.
What are the pros & cons of a breast lift?
- Women who have experienced stretching of the breast skin and areolas from pregnancy, breastfeeding, or weight loss, will benefit from a mastopexy that can restore a youthful, firm position to the breasts.
- The procedure not only uplifts the areolae but can also lessen their size, along with the nipple, if required.
- It is possible to reshape the breasts post-implant removal with a breast lift.
- Breast lift surgery can also help balance asymmetrical breasts.
- The recovery period post-breast lift is quite fast for surgery, normally lasting around 5 days. Over-the-counter pain medication is generally sufficient for most patients.
- Mastopexy boasts a lower complication rate in comparison to other major surgeries.
- A breast lift as an individual procedure is unlikely to cause significant changes to the breasts' size or volume. To achieve this, it would need to be coupled with either a breast reduction or augmentation procedure.
- Incisions from the surgery will leave scars, though these usually diminish after a year or two. In rare instances, where healing is impaired, these scars can become more noticeable and can be treated with lasers, microneedling, and light-based therapies.
- Any major changes in weight (both loss and gain) can affect breast size, shape, and firmness. Therefore, weight maintenance is crucial for preserving results. The tissue will continue to age, and if it is already weak, your surgeon might recommend adding soft tissue support to prevent future sagging.
Melon Hint: Breasts undergo significant changes during pregnancy and breastfeeding. If you're currently pregnant, nursing, or conceiving soon, it's advised to delay your breast lift surgery until several months after breastfeeding.
How much does a breast lift cost?
Average Cost: $12,450
Range:$6,800 - $24,600
The costs associated with a breast lift can significantly fluctuate based on various facets. These include the expertise of your surgeon, their geographical location, the intricacy of your operation, your choice of anesthesia, and other minor elements.
Incorporating additional procedures, such as breast reduction or augmentation, will undoubtedly increase the total cost of the surgery.
Bear in mind that Medicare and private health insurance generally will not cover aesthetic procedures like a breast lift. However, many plastic surgeons provide flexible payment options e.g. Buy Now Pay Later providers like Afterpay.
Is breast lift surgery safe, what are the risks and side effects?
Breast lifts are regarded as a safe form of cosmetic surgery. A 2013 study in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal reported a comparatively low complication rate of 2.37%. The study also documented one fatality out of 3,612 procedures, indicating that the mortality rate for breast lift surgery is 0.03%.
However, the standard surgical risks are still present, including potential bleeding, infection, and allergic reactions to anesthesia.
Be sure to disclose any medications, supplements, or vitamins you are currently taking to your surgeon and anesthesiologist. They may advise you to temporarily stop the intake of substances such as blood thinners or fish oil tablets.
Specific risks tied to a breast lift:
- Potential harm to the nipples or areolas, in rare instances where blood supply is compromised.
- Potential challenges in future breastfeeding (more info below).
- Temporary or, in rare situations, permanent numbness in the nipples or breasts.
- Possible asymmetry in the size, shape, or nipple positioning of the breasts.
- In certain cases, scars may be quite pronounced.
To mitigate these risks, engage a board-certified plastic surgeon specializing in breast lifts. Diligently review their patient feedback (both positive and negative) and their before & after images before making a decision. Diligently following their aftercare guidelines is also crucial.
Who should get a breast lift?
Prospective candidates ideally suited for a breast lift are healthy, non-smoking individuals with a consistent weight, who are dealing with drooping, flattened, or lengthened breasts. Additional qualifications include the presence of asymmetry, lower-placed nipples, or stretched skin.
A large number of women who have breastfed children could see improvements from a mastopexy. Moreover, it's a viable option regardless of your breast size. The surgical approach remains the same, even if there is minimal breast tissue present at the onset.
A breast lift could prove beneficial if you are dealing with:
- Sagging breasts
- Overstretched skin
- Nipples located under the natural breast fold
- Downward-pointing nipples
- Expanded areolas
- A flattened look due to skin laxity and volume depletion
- Unequal or asymmetrical breasts
- Dangling breasts
What a breast lift won’t do
A breast lift by itself cannot enhance or reduce breast size, bring breasts closer, or generate cleavage.
For those desiring added volume, a popular option is to pair a breast lift with implants.
What are the different breast lift methods, and what do their scars look like?
Depending on the level of breast sagging, plastic surgeons will implement different types of breast lift techniques. Each approach involves a distinctive incision pattern, which results in a correspondingly shaped and sized scar.
Your breast's appearance, the extent of surplus skin, and the nipple's location inform the kind of incisions your surgeon will suggest.
During your consultation, your surgeon will assess, measure, and photo your breasts before advising on the most suitable breast lift method and the incisions and scars that come with it.
Lollipop or Vertical Lift
- In a lollipop breast lift, an incision encircles the areola, and another incision stretches vertically from the areola's base to the crease beneath the breast, creating a lollipop shape.
- A large proportion of mastopexies are performed using this method, offering the advantages of less scarring and a reduced likelihood of 'bottoming out' in the future.
- The incisions made in an anchor breast lift go around the areola, down to the breast crease, and run along the crease, forming an anchor shape.
- This technique is perfect for patients with severe sagging or those who have lost a lot of weight. For patients with grade-3 ptosis (the most severe level of breast sagging) who hold a lot of excess skin, the addition of an anchor incision becomes necessary for skin removal.
Periareolar, Donut, or Benelli Lift
- A circular incision is created around the areola's outer edge and is useful for correcting sagging and reducing the areola size.
- The periareolar technique, also known as the 'Doughnut' or Benelli method, is suitable for mild ptosis treatment.
- Although this is the least invasive type of breast lift, this technique may not yield the desired results due to the small amount of tissue removed.
- Periareolar scars can broaden over time, giving a 'blooming' appearance, straining the circle, and potentially leading to unsightly scars.
- A crescent-moon-shaped incision is made around a portion of the areola.
- This technique is recommended for rectifying minor sagging, nipple positioning, and asymmetry.
Melon Hint: Your healthcare provider may advise getting an initial mammogram prior to the procedure. This serves as a reference point and allows for comparative analysis with a post-surgery mammogram to identify any changes in breast tissue.
What happens during breast lift surgery?
Mastopexy is an outpatient procedure typically performed under local anesthesia with IV sedation (ensuring you're calm and drowsy) or under general anesthesia (rendering you completely numb and unconscious).
- Your surgeon will implement one of the aforementioned breast lift methods.
- As your breast tissue is repositioned higher on your chest wall, your surgeon will strategically place stitches in multiple layers to fortify the deep tissue and shape your new breast contour.
- In many instances, the surgeon will also elevate the position of your nipples and possibly decrease the size of your areolas.
- Surplus skin will be removed before the incisions are sealed with stitches, tissue glue, or surgical tape.
The surgery usually lasts between 2 to 3 hours, and patients are typically allowed to return home on the same day.
Post-surgery, you might feel foggy due to the anesthesia, so it is essential to have someone to drive you home and ensure your comfort.
Can a breast lift reduce bra cup size?
Yes, a 2014 study in Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery found that a slight reduction in bra size post-lift may be observable. Given that some tissue and skin will be removed to reposition your breasts higher on the chest wall, as a result, there will be a minor decrease in size.
If potential volume reduction is a concern for you, it would be beneficial to discuss options such as implants or fat transfer with your surgeon.
Is a breast lift painful?
During the procedure, you are to be under anesthesia, so you won't experience any sensations.
Post-surgery, expect some soreness, swelling and bruising, although the pain should be minimal. The discomfort associated with this procedure is less intense compared to many other surgeries, generally confined to minor discomfort around the incision.
The discomfort associated with this procedure is quite low, primarily because, unlike augmentation where muscle displacement is required for implant insertion, a breast lift involves no muscle manipulation.
Despite this, your surgeon may still prescribe pain medication for the initial days post-surgery. However, don't be taken aback if you find it unnecessary. In fact, a large majority, about 80% of patients, never resort to using pain medication.
Beyond the initial few days, any lingering soreness or discomfort should be manageable with over-the-counter pain medication.
Recovery period after a breast lift
Patients undergoing a breast lift generally find they can return to desk jobs within a week following the procedure. However, if your work involves lifting anything more than 5kgs, it may be necessary to take up to a month off to ensure proper healing. This also applies to lifting small children during this time.
Here's an overview of what to anticipate during your recovery period:
- Post-surgery, expect your breasts to be protected by surgical dressings and a support bra specially designed for recovery.
- You may also find small surgical drains in place to stop fluid accumulation.
- Your surgeon will likely advise you to wear the support bra for a few weeks before transitioning to a different type of bra. This step is crucial as it prevents incision stretching, reduces swelling, and aids tissue healing.
- During the initial few weeks, your breasts may display signs of bruising and swelling, reaching their peak around the 3rd day. The breasts may also feel tight and heavy.
- Your surgeon will provide post-operative care guidelines detailing how to change your bandages and clean your incisions to avoid infection. They will also inform you when your drains and any stitches can be removed during a subsequent appointment.
- Sleep on your back or side and follow your doctor’s guidance regarding returning to your daily routine. Many patients tend to be overly active too soon, simply because they start feeling better.
- As for resuming sexual activities, the typical timeframe is around six weeks post-surgery.
How soon can you see breast lift results?
Patients can expect to see results immediately following the procedure.
Approximately 75% of the final outcome is noticeable 3 to 4 months post-surgery. The remaining 25% could take between 6 months to a full year to fully materialize, the duration needed for the swelling to subside.
Expect your scars to take at least 1 year to diminish. Scars resulting from surgery typically heal more smoothly compared to those from accidental injuries. Often when the scar reaches the 12-month mark, patients end up with a barely visible fine line.
Surgeons usually provide detailed scar management plans, so be sure to inquire about their recommendations.
Can you breastfeed after getting breast lift surgery?
According to a study in the Internation Breastfeeding Journal, some women may face challenges breastfeeding after any breast surgery due to possible damage to the milk ducts.
However, most surgical techniques will preserve breast ductal tissue and the nerves, meaning the capability to breastfeed should not be affected.
If breastfeeding in the future is a priority, it might be advisable to hold off on getting a breast lift until after you're done nursing. This way, you can guarantee that won't have any issues. Moreover, breastfeeding can also impact breast lift outcomes, another compelling reason to consider delaying the procedure.
Can you still go braless after a breast lift?
Following your breast lift surgery, the use of a supportive bra is required for a few months, although the precise duration may vary according to different surgeons' opinions.
It is standard for patients to consistently wear a bra for the initial 90 days post-surgery, with a limitation on any substantial periods without a bra.
To maintain the long-lasting results of a breast lift, wearing a bra indefinitely becomes a necessity. Once the uplift procedure has been completed, your breasts will appear elevated and aesthetically pleasing, however, the persistent pull of gravity is always present. After a period of time, they will begin gradually sagging. The only effective countermeasure to delay this natural process is the consistent use of a bra.
How long do breast lift results last?
A breast lift can last indefinitely due to the permanent alterations made during surgery. However, it's important to remember that the progression of time remains, thus, your breasts will continue to age.
Numerous factors can expedite the aging process of breasts, including sun exposure, smoking habits, hereditary traits, your skin's elasticity and type, pre-existing health conditions, and having larger breasts.
Generally speaking, individuals tend not to seek revision procedures until at least 8 to 10 years following a breast lift, often extending beyond this timeframe.
To counteract the influences of gravity and future aging, surgeons commonly incorporate soft tissue support during these procedures.
Is a breast lift worth the money?
Breast lift surgery is highly regarded, 94% of patients deem the procedure worth the cost. The majority of the reviews were favourable with patients satisfied with their outcomes.
However, those who claimed that their mastopexy was not satisfactory pointed to issues such as infection, imbalance, noticeable scarring, or persisting ptosis necessitating further corrective surgery.
To increase the likelihood of a rewarding experience, it is advised that you consult with a minimum of 2, preferably more, board-certified plastic surgeons to discuss your apprehensions and objectives. Additionally, obtaining comprehensive cost breakdowns can assist you in determining whether this procedure will meet your expectations.
What are some alternatives to a breast lift?
There is no alternative when it comes to effectively lifting sagging breasts. Nevertheless, BodyTite, a device utilizing radiofrequency-assisted lipolysis, has been observed to moderately contract and elevate breast tissues. A study conducted in 2022, published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery reported the procedure as “a minimally invasive, effective method to improve mild to moderate breast ptosis with minimal scarring and high patient satisfaction.”
These commonly cited alternatives have not shown to be effective:
- Applying topical creams or utilizing "breast lift tape" has not demonstrated the ability to elevate drooping breasts.
- While chest exercises may enhance muscle tone, they do not have the ability to eliminate sagging tissues and skin - physical workouts cannot significantly lift the breast.
- Non-surgical procedures using dermal fillers or fat removal techniques won't provide a lifting effect to the breasts. However, fat-dissolving injections or CoolSculpting are effective for targeting areas of concern like "bra bulge" or underarm fat.
Sources & Studies
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Horndeski, GM & Gonzalez, E 2017, ‘No Vertical Scar Breast Weight Transfer’, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery – Global Open, vol. 5, no. 12, p. e1593, viewed 11 July 2023, <https://journals.lww.com/prsgo/Fulltext/2017/12000/No_Vertical_Scar_Breast_Weight_Transfer.25.aspx>.
Rinker, B, Veneracion, M & Walsh, CP 2010, ‘Breast Ptosis Causes and Cure’, Annals of Plastic Surgery, vol. 64, no. 5, pp. 579–584, viewed 11 July 2023, <https://journals.lww.com/annalsplasticsurgery/Abstract/2010/05000/Breast_Ptosis__Causes_and_Cure.16.aspx>.
Schiff, M, Algert, CS, Ampt, A, Sywak, MS & Roberts, CL 2014, ‘The impact of cosmetic breast implants on breastfeeding: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, International Breastfeeding Journal, vol. 9, no. 1, p. 17, viewed 11 July 2023, <https://internationalbreastfeedingjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1746-4358-9-17>.
Taj Tomouk & Garrick Georgeu 2023, ‘Use of a biological scaffold in the cleavage area in complex revision breast augmentation: A surgical technique and case series’, Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery, vol. 78, pp. 75–81, viewed 11 July 2023, <https://www.jprasurg.com/article/S1748-6815(23)00045-1/fulltext>.
Townsend, AN, Shah, S, Bouz, A, Nichols, N & Lampert, JA 2023, ‘Safely Shaping the Breast After Implant Removal and Total Intact Capsulectomy Using the Mammary Imbrication Lift and Fixation Technique’, Aesthetic Surgery Journal Open Forum, vol. 5, viewed 11 July 2023, <https://academic.oup.com/asjopenforum/article/doi/10.1093/asjof/ojad037/7115886>.
Unger, JG, Nneamaka Agochukwu-Nwubah, Theodorou, SJ & G. Patrick Maxwell 2022, ‘Clinical Evaluation of Safety and Efficacy of Radiofrequency-Assisted Lipolysis on Breast Envelope and Nipple-Areola Complex Position’, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, vol. 150, no. 6, pp. 1200–1210, viewed 11 July 2023, <https://journals.lww.com/plasreconsurg/Fulltext/2022/12000/Clinical_Evaluation_of_Safety_and_Efficacy_of.6.aspx>.
Weichman, KE, Doft, MA & Matarasso, A 2014, ‘The Impact of Mastopexy on Brassiere Cup Size’, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, vol. 134, no. 1, pp. 34e40e, viewed 11 July 2023, <https://journals.lww.com/plasreconsurg/Abstract/2014/07000/The_Impact_of_Mastopexy_on_Brassiere_Cup_Size.12.aspx>.