Breast Lift (Mastopexy)
Arm Lift Quick Facts
- Best Candidates: Women who are seeking to improve their appearance with more firm and shapely breasts
- Procedure Length: 1 to 5 hours
- Inpatient/Outpatient: Usually Outpatient
- Anesthesia: General or local with sedation
- Results: Long-lasting
- Procedures in 2020: 87,051 (source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons)
Many women experience a loss of elasticity in the breast skin and a loss of breast volume over time. The force of gravity, pregnancy, breastfeeding and possibly other factors cause the breasts to lose some of their firmness and begin to sag.
Breast lift (also called mastopexy) is a surgical procedure to lift and reshape the breasts. The procedure results in tighter skin, more support for the weight of the breast tissues and breasts that are more firm and shapely. The majority of women who undergo a breast lift successfully achieve an improved appearance and an increase in self-confidence.
The procedure information contained in this article will give you a good introduction to breast lifts. Schedule a consultation with a Top Plastic Surgeon to receive a medical examination and discuss your options for breast enhancement.
Breast Lift Overview
During breast lift surgery (mastopexy), the excess skin that causes the breast to droop is removed and the nipple and areola (the darker skin surrounding the nipple) are moved to a higher position. The procedure results in breasts that are more perky and youthful, and can be used in conjunction with breast implants to add both firmness and fullness to the breasts.
How a Breast Lift is Performed
The length of the procedure can vary greatly depending on the technique used, and can take from 1 to 5 hours. Breast lifts are usually performed as an outpatient procedure in your plastic surgeon's surgical facility, in an outpatient surgical center or in a hospital. More extensive breast lift procedures may require an overnight hospital stay. Breast lift surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia, which allows you to sleep throughout the procedure.
Several different breast lift techniques are used depending on the amount of sagging experienced by the patient. The most common technique involves an anchor-shaped incision and may be recommended for women with larger or more acutely sagging breasts. Women with smaller breasts or less sagging may be candidates for techniques that require less extensive incisions, such as the concentric, or "doughnut," breast lift.
Anchor-Shaped Breast Lift
The anchor-shaped breast lift is the most common breast lift procedure and is most effective for women whose breasts are larger or who experience a high degree of sagging.
During the procedure, a circular incision is made above the areola, vertical incisions are made extending downward on either side of the areola and curved incisions are made to each side of the breast. The skin within the shape of the incisions is removed and the nipple and areola are moved up to the site of the circular incision. The skin on each side of the breast is then brought together to shape the breast.
Stitches are placed around the areola, along a line extending downward from the areola and along the newly created crease where the breast meets the chest.
Concentric ("Doughnut") Breast Lift
The concentric, or "doughnut," breast lift procedure requires less extensive incisions and is frequently recommended for women whose breasts are smaller or have less sagging.
During the procedure, circular incisions are made around the areola in the shape of a doughnut. The skin between the circles is then removed, the nipple and areola are moved upward and the skin around the perimeter of the doughnut brought inward and stitched around the areola.
Depending on the individual, additional incisions may be made extending downward from the areola to the breast crease, a thin strip of skin removed and the sides stitched together.
The best candidates for breast lifts are women who are in good health and want to enhance their appearance with breasts that are more firm, shapely and youthful-looking.
Generally, the best candidates for breast lift are women:
- Are in good physical and psychological health.
- Are well-informed about treatment options and have realistic expectations.
- Want to improve their feminine contour with breasts that are more firm and shapely.
Women with breasts of any size can benefit from a breast lift, but the results usually last longer in women with smaller breasts.
If you believe that you may be a good candidate for a breast lift, a qualified plastic surgeon can evaluate your circumstances, explain anything about the procedure you don't understand, answer all of your questions and help you decide if the procedure is right for you.
Breast Lift Risks
Any surgery carries some degree of risk. Complications experienced by breast lift patients are infrequent and usually minor when the procedure is performed by a qualified plastic surgeon. To minimize your risk, be sure to follow all of your plastic surgeon's instructions both before and after the procedure. Contact your surgeon's office immediately if you experience any symptoms you believe may indicate a complication.
The most common risks associated with breast lift surgery (mastopexy) include:
- Pain, swelling or bruising beyond normal levels
- Excessive bleeding
- Numbness (usually temporary)
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia
- Dissatisfaction with results
The scars left by a breast lift are permanent and noticeable, though they will be concealed beneath your clothes. Numbness around the nipples usually subsides quickly but can be permanent in some cases. Temporary wrinkling of the skin around the areola can occur, especially with a concentric breast lift, as the skin adjusts to the new breast shape. More rarely, the nipples may be uneven or other characteristics of the breasts may be mismatched.
If breast implants are used, the risks include capsular contracture (when the scar capsule surrounding the implant shrinks and squeezes the implant) and implant rupture (when saline solution or silicone gel leaks from the breast implant due to a break in the implant covering).
Breast Lift Costs
The national average surgeon/physician fee for breast lifts in 2013 was $4,207, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. This figure does not include other costs, such as a facilities charge or anesthesia. You should be provided with complete information on costs and financing options at the initial consultation with your doctor.
The total fee for a breast lift can vary depending on the region of the country, the extent of the procedure and your specific needs as a patient. As it is considered to be a cosmetic procedure, the cost of breast lifts is usually not covered by health insurance.
Breast Lift Consultation
If you decide that you might benefit from a breast lift, the first step is to locate a qualified plastic surgeon and schedule a consultation. During this meeting, you will be examined by the doctor and discuss your options in detail. Be sure to ask any questions that you have, including those related to your expectations for the procedure.
The surgeon should fully address all of your questions and offer advice on how to achieve your desired results. Depending on the specifics of your situation, the surgeon may recommend a breast lift or a breast lift with implants. He or she should give you the full details of the procedure, including the technique that will be used and where the nipple will be positioned. You should also cover costs and financing, risks and possible complications and the details of the recovery process. Be sure to ask for before and after photos of the surgeon's recent breast lift patients.
Be prepared to discuss your overall health and medical history. Bring a list of all of your current medications — prescription, over-the-counter and herbal. Include any vitamins that you take. Also remember to bring a list of previous surgeries, including any type of procedure involving the breasts.
As the consultation concludes, you may wish to schedule your procedure, take some time to think or seek a second opinion. If you decide to proceed with the procedure, your plastic surgeon will provide you with specific instructions on how to prepare for your breast lift. These instructions will include guidelines for eating, drinking, and medications and vitamins to take or avoid before and after surgery.
Breast Lift Recovery
Prepare your home by taking things that you have to reach up for (for example, things on a high shelf or cupboard) and put them on a countertop or table. Stretching for items over your head will be uncomfortable for about a week after surgery. Have foods available that are light on the stomach, and have comfortable clothing ready, including loosely-fitting shirts that open in the front (avoid pull-over shirts). Have a couple of cotton sports bras without underwire or post-surgical bras on hand to provide comfort and support for the first few weeks after your breast lift procedure.
Normal symptoms experienced after breast lift surgery are usually minor and subside rapidly with proper care, as outlined in your post-operative instructions. These symptoms include moderate swelling and bruising, mild to moderate discomfort and pain, itching, numbness and tingling or shooting pains. Contact your plastic surgeon's office immediately if you experience any severe swelling, bruising or pain that is not controlled by your prescribed pain medication.
Your breasts will be bandaged after surgery to provide support and protection. Keep the dressings as clean and dry as possible until they are removed in a few days. The stitches will be removed about 2 weeks after surgery. The scars may be red and uneven for several months, but will eventually fade to faint lines. Your surgeon will make every effort to minimize scarring and make the scars as subtle as possible. Scarring is usually less when breast lifts are performed using the concentric technique.
Always follow your plastic surgeon's advice on when you can resume your normal activities. Get as much rest as possible and avoid any movements that could stretch the breast tissues or rupture the stitches for the first few days. Most women can return to work or resume most normal activities within a week or two. More vigorous physical activity and any overhead lifting should be avoided for several weeks to give the breasts time to heal.
Since the milk ducts located behind the nipple are left intact, most women are able to successfully breastfeed after a breast lift.