What is a breast lift (mastopexy)?
As a person ages, there is a tendency for the breast tissue to descend, or droop, to a lower position on the chest wall. This phenomenon is known as breast ptosis, and is also affected by pregnancy, breast-feeding, weight gain/loss and hormonal changes. In addition to this, the nipple may descend and appear too low relative to the breast. A breast lift (mastopexy) is a procedure performed by plastic surgeons to address droopiness of the breasts and restore the breasts to a more youthful shape and position. In some instances, patients require both a breast lift and a breast augmentation with an implant to increase the size of the breasts in addition to improving breast shape.
Who is a suitable candidate for a breast lift?
The ideal candidate for breast lift surgery is in good physical health and has a stable weight. A candidate’s typical concerns would be breasts that droop or sag, show stretched skin, with downward-pointing nipples that rest below the breast crease. Most importantly, the patient should be self-motivated with realistic expectations of what mastopexy can achieve. Patients desiring increased size in addition to improved shape may benefit from breast augmentation at the same time as mastopexy.
What are the goals of a breast lift?
The goals of mastopexy are to improve breast shape and restore the position of the nipple and areola (the pigmented skin around the nipple), all achieved with an acceptable surgical scar. Patients desiring increased size in addition to improved shape may benefit from breast augmentation at the same time as mastopexy.
What is done during breast lift surgery?
Several mastopexy techniques exist, and your surgeon will discuss which would best achieve your goals given your breast size, shape, and the extent of ptosis present.
In the preoperative area, surgical markings are drawn on the breasts to plan the operation. Three major approaches exist, based on different scar patterns (see below). In general, a greater degree of ptosis will need a greater lift, which requires a longer incision resulting in a longer scar. A variable portion of the skin is removed, allowing the nipple and areola to be repositioned. The procedure can also involve removal of a small amount of breast tissue, with repositioning of breast tissue so that the breasts appear higher and fuller. Surgical drains are generally unnecessary after mastopexy. The incisions are closed with sutures and a dressing is applied to the surgical site. A bra is usually worn for several weeks after surgery.
Where is the surgery performed?
All surgeries are performed at Women’s College Hospital as day surgery by the plastic surgery senior resident under the supervision of a faculty plastic surgeon.
What to expect in the recovery? How long will I be off work? When can I resume exercise?
The procedure itself can take from 1 to 3 hours depending on how much work is required. Mastopexy is performed as day surgery. Specialized skin tape and/or a bra will be applied at the end of your surgery. After the operation you will be brought to the recovery room, and medications will be given to help relieve any pain or prevent nausea. You will be discharged home with a prescription for pain medication, instructions and a follow-up appointment. For the best results, you should plan on resting and taking it easy after surgery. For the first few days after surgery, most patients experience some discomfort at the surgical site. Pain should generally subside after one week, and it is normal to experience some oozing around the incisions. After which you will starting feeling better and returning to your normal self. Recovery from the surgery varies between individuals and the specific procedure performed. Swelling and bruising in the area of the surgery will be present and generally begins to improve about 1 week after surgery. You should plan on being off work for 1 week. During your recovery, you should refrain from strenuous physical activity including lifting and pulling for 6 weeks following surgery.
Where are the scars?
As plastic surgeons, we realize the importance of the cosmetic outcome. We will make every effort to optimize the scar size and conceal it in the least visible area of the breasts. In many cases, it is possible to improve the appearance with very little scarring. Mastopexy scars vary depending on which technique is performed. The most common patterns are:
- Periareolar – circular pattern around the areola (pigmented skin around the nipple)
- Vertical – around the areola with a vertical portion extending to the breast crease. This is also referred to as a “lollipop” scar
- Inverted-T – around the areola with a vertical line to the breast crease, and extending horizontally in the breast crease
It is important to realize that scar formation varies between individuals and is highly dependent on a person’s genetic predisposition. Scars typically fade over time but their final dimensions and colour are difficult to predict. At the consultation, the plastic surgeon will talk to you about this.
What are some common complications of surgery?
Complications of breast lift surgery, like those of other cosmetic procedures, are uncommon but may include unfavorable scarring, asymmetries, bleeding, infection, swelling and numbness. Specific to breast lift surgery, risks including recurrence of the sagginess and the rare possibility of loss of feeling or skin loss around the nipple can occur.
When will I see the final results of the surgery?
Results of the mastopexy surgery should be apparent immediately after surgery, and will continue to improve over 3 to 6 months as incisions heal and swelling resolves. Scars mature over time, and will become fainter and lighter up to one year after your operation.