Also known as mastopexy, a breast lift raises the breasts by removing excess skin and tightening surrounding tissue to reshape and support the breast tissue.
Breast Lift (Mastopexy)
A woman's breasts often change over time, losing their shape and drop down below the breast fold (or IMF - inframammary fold). These changes and loss of skin elasticity can result from:
- Weight fluctuations
Sometimes the areola becomes enlarged over time, and a breast lift will reduce this as well.
What it won't do
Breast lift surgery does not significantly change the size of your breasts or give your upper breast a fuller volume. If you want your breasts to look fuller or smaller, you might want to consider either breast augmentation or breast reduction surgery.
Is it right for you?
Breast lift surgery is a highly individualised procedure and you should do it for yourself, not to fulfill someone else's desires or to try to fit any sort of ideal image.
A breast lift is a good option for you if:
- You are physically healthy and maintain a stable weight
- You do not smoke
- You are not overweight (i.e. your BMI is <30)
- You have realistic expectations
- You are happy with your breast size, but not their positions
- Your breasts have a flat, elongated shape or are pendulous
- When unsupported, your nipples fall below the breast crease (IMF)
- Your nipples and areolae point downward
- You have stretched skin and enlarged areolae
- One breast is lower than the other
Procedural Steps - What happens during Breast Lift Surgery?
Your breast lift surgery can be achieved through a variety of incision patterns and techniques. The appropriate technique for you will be determined based on:
- Breast size and shape
- The size and position of your areolae
- The degree of breast drop
- Skin quality and elasticity as well as the amount of extra skin
- Any need for manipulation, hitching, suturing or reshaping of the glandular breast tissue
Our surgeons only performs mastopexy with general anaesthesia to ensure your comfort and optimal result.
There are three common incision patterns as seen in breast reduction. The choice of skin incision is dependent on amount of excess skin and amount of lift required.
Around the Areola
Around the areola and vertically down from the areola to the breast crease
Around the areola, vertically down from the breast crease and horizontally along the breast crease
Reshaping the Breast
Once the incisions are made:
- The underlying breast tissue is lifted and reshaped to improve breast contour and firmness.
- The nipple and areola are repositioned.
- If necessary, enlarged areolae are reduced by excising skin at the perimeter.
- Excess breast skin is removed to compensate for a loss of elasticity.
Closing the incisions
After the breasts are reshaped and excess skin is removed, the remaining skin is tightened as the incisions are closed. Sutures are layered deep within the breast tissue to create and support the newly shaped breasts. Sutures, skin adhesives and/or surgical tape may be used to close the skin. Some incision lines resulting from breast lift are concealed in the natural breast contours; however, others are visible on the breast surface. Incision lines are permanent, but in most cases will fade and significantly improve over time.
Specific risks of Breast Lift Surgery
The decision to have breast lift surgery is extremely personal and you'll have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications are acceptable.
Your surgeon will explain in detail the risks associated with surgery. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure and any risks or potential complications.
These risks include:
- Unfavourable scarring
- Bleeding (hematoma)
- Poor healing of incisions
- Changes in nipple or breast sensation, which may be temporary or permanent
- Anaesthesia risks
- Breast contour and shape irregularities
- Skin discoloration, permanent pigmentation changes, swelling and bruising
- Damage to deeper structures such as nerves, blood vessels, and muscles can occur and may be temporary or permanent
- Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, blood products, topical preparations or injected agents
- Breast asymmetry
- Fatty tissue deep in the skin could die (fat necrosis)
- Fluid accumulation
- Excessive firmness of the breast
- Potential partial or total loss of nipple and areola
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Blood clots
- Pain, which may persist
- Possibility of revision surgery
Most of the risks are very uncommon, and some people (with particular health problems or specific breast features), may be at higher risk for specific complications. You surgeon will discuss this with you during your consultation if any of these risks are specifically pertinent to you.
Although breast reduction surgery can be an effective procedure where the benefits significantly outweigh the risks, like everything in the practice of medicine and surgery, it is not an exact science. The degree of surgical success can be altered by how each individual's body responds to surgery and healing. Although good results are expected, there is no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single surgical procedure; revision surgery may be necessary.
Be sure to ask questions: It's very important to ask questions about your procedure. It's natural to feel some anxiety, whether it's excitement for your anticipated new look or a bit of preoperative stress. Don't be shy about discussing these feelings and any specific concerns with your surgeon or any of our staff members.
After your breast lift procedure is completed, dressings and a foamy elastic tape will be applied to the incisions and your chest wall. You may be able to go home on the same day (if you have no drains). A responsible adult will need to pick you up and stay with you for at least one night.
Your first postoperative appointment will be within 5-7 days. You will need to bring your soft cup bra (in your postoperative pack) so that when all the tapes are removed, they can be replaced with the bra. The wounds often take up to 2 weeks to heal, and we recommend no heavy exercise or lifting for at least 4 weeks. Your routine follow-up appointment with your surgeon will be at 6-8 weeks.
Results and Expectations
The results of your breast lift surgery are immediately visible. Over time, post-surgical swelling will resolve and incision lines will improve. The final results of your breast lift will appear over the next few months as breast shape and position settle. Satisfaction with your new image should continue to grow as you recover. Incision lines are permanent, but will continue to fade over time.
The results of your breast lift surgery will be long-lasting. Over time, your breasts can continue to change due to aging and gravity. But, you'll be able to retain your new look longer if you:
- Maintain your weight
- Keep a healthy lifestyle
Special note: While a breast lift does not usually affect breast function, if you are planning to become pregnant, discuss this with your surgeon. If you are planning to have a baby, your breast skin may stretch and counteract the results of mastopexy and you may have more difficulty breastfeeding after this operation. Changes that occur in the breasts during pregnancy can minimize or reverse the improvement a breast lift provides. Likewise, plans for significant weight loss should also be discussed.
Cost of Breast Lift
Majority of breast lift surgery are considered to be cosmetic and not covered by private health insurance plans. If your breast shape meets the criteria for a medicare item number, you may be eligible for a rebate from your private health fund, however, these criteria are strict and very specific. Your surgeon will inform you if your surgery is considered rebatable.
Vocabulary to know
- Areola: Pigmented skin surrounding the nipple.
- Breast augmentation: Also known as augmentation mammaplasty, breast enlargement by surgery.
- Breast lift: Also known as mastopexy; surgery to lift the breasts.
- Breast reduction: Also known as reduction mammaplasty, reduction of breast size by surgery.
- General anaesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness.
- Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin.
- Mastopexy: Surgery to lift the breasts.
- Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together.
(Some Information & Illustrations are courtesy of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons).