Breast Reduction

Breast reduction is a common surgical procedure to decrease the size of one or both breasts. While more common in women, this procedure can also be done in men.

What Does a Breast Reduction Do?

The procedure can correct:

  • Overly large breasts, resulting in any of the following symptoms, including:
    • Poor self-image
    • Back, neck or shoulder pain
    • Posture problems
    • Grooving and/or abrasions from bra straps
    • Rash under the lower portion of the breasts
  • Breast asymmetry — may be due to previous surgery to one breast, such as in the case of mastectomy or lumpectomy
  • Large male breasts, known as gynecomastia — can be related to hormonal changes, medications or other health conditions

The Reduction Procedure 

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor will consult with you to understand what breast size and shape that you want. This may include photos and computer imaging. 

Your doctor will likely do the following:

  • A breast exam
  • Blood tests
  • Mammogram
  • Photos for comparison after surgery

During a Breast Reduction  

Your doctor cuts the area around the nipple and areola to remove skin, fat and breast tissue. Depending on how much breast tissue is removed, your doctor may need to reposition the nipple and areola higher up on the breast tissue. Tiny stitches close any cuts in the breast skin.

The amount of scarring

breast reduction surgery
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depends on the amount that the breast is reduced and the amount of repositioning you need. Scarring can occur around the areola, down to the breast crease and along the breast crease.

Your doctor may place a small, flexible tube in one or both breasts to drain any fluid from the early phases of healing. These drains may need to stay in place for several days. They can be removed in the doctor's office without surgery.

The procedure takes about 2-4 hours. Immediately after the procedure, your chest will be tightly bandaged or you will have a special surgical bra to provide pressure and support.

You will have tenderness, swelling and bruising of the breasts for several weeks after surgery. The pain can be controlled with medications.

Possible Complications

Your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding and bruising
  • Possible loss of sensation to the breast, nipple and/or areola
  • Possible loss of ability to breastfeed
  • Asymmetry between breasts
  • Limited arm and/or shoulder movement
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Scarring
  • Fluid or blood-filled cysts in the healing breast tissue
  • Loss of nipple, areola, skin or breast tissue due to change in blood supply

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking, alcohol abuse or illegal drug use
  • Diabetes
  • Prior radiation to the breast area
  • Poor nutrition


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.