A breast lift — also known as mastopexy — is a surgical procedure performed by a plastic surgeon to change the shape of your breasts. During a breast lift, excess skin is removed and breast tissue is reshaped to raise the breasts.
You might choose to have a breast lift if your breasts sag or your nipples point downward. A breast lift might also boost your self-image and self-confidence.
A breast lift won't significantly change the size of your breasts. However, a breast lift can be done in combination with breast augmentation or breast reduction.
Why it's done
As you get older, your breasts change — losing elasticity and firmness. There are many causes for these kinds of breast changes, including:
- Pregnancy. During pregnancy, the ligaments that support your breasts might stretch as your breasts get fuller and heavier. This stretching might contribute to sagging breasts after pregnancy — whether or not you breast-feed your baby.
- Weight fluctuations. Changes in your weight can cause your breast skin to stretch and lose elasticity.
- Gravity. Over time, gravity causes ligaments in the breasts to stretch and sag.
A breast lift can reduce sagging and raise the position of the nipples and the darker area surrounding the nipples (areolae). The size of the areolae can also be reduced during the procedure to keep them in proportion to the newly shaped breasts.
You might consider a breast lift if:
- Your breasts sag — they've lost shape and volume, or they've gotten flatter and longer
- Your nipples — when your breasts are unsupported — fall below your breast creases
- Your nipples and areolae point downward
- Your areolae have stretched out of proportion to your breasts
- One of your breasts falls lower than the other
A breast lift isn't for everyone. If you're considering pregnancy at any point in the future, you might delay getting a breast lift. During pregnancy your breasts could stretch and offset the results of the lift.
Breast-feeding is a consideration as well. Although breast-feeding is usually possible after a breast lift — since the nipples aren't separated from the underlying breast tissue — some women might have difficulty producing enough milk.
While a breast lift can be done on breasts of any size, women with smaller sagging breasts will likely have longer lasting results. Larger breasts are heavier, which makes them more likely to sag again.
You'll notice an immediate change in the appearance of your breasts — although their shape will continue to change and settle over the next few months.
Initially, scars will appear red and lumpy. While scars are permanent, they'll soften and become thin and white within one to two years. Scars from a breast lift can usually be hidden by bras and bathing suits.
You might notice that your bra size is a little smaller after a breast lift — even if you haven't had a breast reduction in combination with the procedure. This is simply a result of your breasts becoming firmer and rounder.
Breast lift results might not be permanent. As you age, your skin will naturally become less elastic, and some sagging might occur — especially if you have larger, heavier breasts. Maintaining a stable, healthy weight can help you retain your results.
How you prepare
Initially, you'll talk to a plastic surgeon about a breast lift. During your first visit, your plastic surgeon will likely:
Review your medical history. Be prepared to answer questions about current and past medical conditions. Tell the doctor if you have a family history of breast cancer.
Share the results of any mammograms or breast biopsies. Talk about any medications you're taking or have taken recently, as well as any surgeries you've had.
Do a physical exam. To determine your treatment options, the doctor will examine your breasts — including the position of your nipples and areolae.
He or she will also consider the quality of your skin tone. Breast skin that has good tone will hold the breasts in a better position after a breast lift. The doctor might also take pictures of your breasts for your medical record.
- Discuss your expectations. Explain why you want a breast lift and what you're hoping for in terms of appearance after the procedure. Make sure you understand the risks and benefits, including scarring and changes in nipple or breast sensation.
Before a breast lift you might also need to:
- Schedule a mammogram. Your doctor might recommend a baseline mammogram before the procedure and another mammogram a few months afterward. This will help your medical team see changes in your breast tissue and interpret future mammograms.
- Stop smoking. Smoking decreases blood flow in the skin and can slow the healing process. If you smoke, your doctor will recommend that you stop smoking before surgery.
- Avoid certain medications. You'll likely need to avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements, which can increase bleeding.
- Arrange for help during recovery. Make plans for someone to drive you home after surgery and stay with you as you begin to recover. You might need someone to help you with daily activities, such as washing your hair, during your initial recovery.
- Be at a healthy weight. Consider making dietary changes or participating in an exercise program to assist with weight loss if you've gained weight in the past year.
A breast lift poses various risks, including:
- Scarring. While scars are permanent, they'll soften and fade within one to two years. Scars from a breast lift can usually be hidden by bras and bathing suits. Rarely, poor healing can cause scars to become thick and wide.
- Changes in nipple or breast sensation. While sensation typically returns within several weeks, some loss of feeling might be permanent. Erotic sensation typically isn't affected.
- Irregularities or asymmetry in the shape and size of the breasts. This could occur as a result of changes during the healing process. Also, surgery might not successfully correct pre-existing asymmetry.
- Partial or total loss of the nipples or areolae. Rarely, the blood supply to the nipple or areola is interrupted during a breast lift. This can damage breast tissue in the area and lead to the partial or total loss of the nipple or areola.
- Difficulty breast-feeding. While breast-feeding is usually possible after a breast lift, some women might have difficulty producing enough milk.
Like any major surgery, a breast lift poses a risk of bleeding, infection and an adverse reaction to anesthesia. It's also possible to have an allergic reaction to the surgical tape or other materials used during or after the procedure.
During the surgery
Techniques used to remove breast skin and reshape breast tissue vary. The specific technique your plastic surgeon chooses will determine the location of the incisions and the resulting scars.
Your doctor might make incisions:
- Around the areolae — the darker area surrounding the nipples
- Extending downward from the areolae to the breast creases
- Horizontally along the breast creases
Your doctor might place stitches deep within your breasts to reshape your breast tissue and, if necessary, reduce the size of your areolae. He or she will remove excess breast skin and shift the nipples to higher positions. Then your doctor will bring together the breast skin and close the incisions with stitches, surgical tape or skin adhesives.
The procedure typically takes two to three hours, and you can go home on the same day.
After the procedure
After a breast lift, your breasts will likely be covered with gauze and a surgical support bra. Small tubes might be placed at the incision sites in your breasts to drain any excess blood or fluid.
Your breasts will be swollen and bruised for about two weeks. You'll likely feel pain and soreness around the incisions, which will be red or pink for a few months. Numbness in your nipples, areolae and breast skin might last for about six weeks.
In the first few days after a breast lift, take pain medication as recommended by your doctor. Avoid straining, bending and lifting. Sleep on your back or your side to keep pressure off your breasts.
Avoid sexual activity for at least one to two weeks after the breast lift. Ask your doctor when it's OK to resume daily activities, such as washing your hair, showering or bathing.
Drainage tubes may be placed near your incisions and are typically removed within a few days. When your doctor removes the tubes, he or she will also probably change or remove your bandages.
Talk to your doctor about when — or if — your stitches will be removed. Some stitches dissolve on their own. Others must be removed in the doctor's office, often one to two weeks after the procedure.
Continue to wear the surgical support bra round-the-clock for three or four days. Then you'll wear a soft support bra for three or four weeks. Your doctor might suggest using silicone tape or gel on your incisions to promote healing.
While you're healing, keep your breasts out of the sun. Afterward, protect your incisions during sun exposure.
Before - After
Frequently Asked Questions
Breast lift vs breast augmentation: How to tell which is needed?
What you need to remember is that “augment” means to add to, or make bigger. A breast augmentation will make your breast bigger. A mastopexy is a breast lift or breast tightening procedure that tightens up a breast that has a loose skin envelope. The two procedures are by no means mutually exclusive; in fact, we perform combined breast augmentation with a mastopexy or lift quite frequently. During your consultation, we will assess first your goals; do you want a larger breast or a higher, tighter, firmer breast? Second, as your surgeon I will tell you how I recommend we best proceed to achieve your specific goals. The use of other patient’s before and after pictures will be used to give you an idea about what can be reasonably achieved on my part, as well as help me better understand your expectations.
Can breast lift with implants provide symmetrical breasts?
Symmetry in breasts is always tricky. First, no part of our bodies are mirror image duplicates of the opposite sides. Second, while asymmetry in the breasts can be the result of asymmetry in breast size, breast shape or breast position, it can also be the result of asymmetry in the chest wall, the ribs or a scoliosis (a curvature of the spine). So, whether you undergo augmentation with implants with or without breast lift, acceptable symmetry can usually be achieved. This is another fact that will be addressed in your consult. It is a funny thing, but many times we don’t notice our own inherent breast/chest asymmetries until we make the breast larger. While some asymmetries can be improved by the surgery, others may be enhanced!
What kind of breast lift leaves minimal scars?
In our practice, we perform three types of breast lifts (mastopexies) a periareolar or donut lift, a vertical or lollipop lift or the wise pattern or anchor lift. These are listed in order of increasing amounts of scar and which is right for you depends on your goals. The periareolar scar is best for minimal moves of the areola/nipple or for reduction in size of the areola. This lift does not affect the overall shape of the breast much, it only repositions the nipple/areola. it is a scar around the entire circumference of the areola. (A scar only at the top of the areola or crescent lift really doesn’t work to do anything but distort the areola in the long run.)
The vertical lift, which is the most popular in our practice, has a scar around the areola and straight down. This mastopexy works well to not only lift but to narrow the breast. This finesse and exacting technique required to do this lift means you need to find a surgeon experienced in its use. It really is the biggest lift for the amount of scar, or biggest bang for your buck.
Some women simply have too much skin for a vertical lift and must have the Wise pattern or anchor shaped scar. The long horizontal component of this scar is the area most likely to produce a thick highly visible scar, but as in all mastopexies, it is a trade off. More scar, less excess skin, and resulting better breast shape.
This is another example of when looking at post operative pictures can help define what is possible with your breast with each lift.
Can breast lift and breast augmentation procedures be performed on the same surgery?
Yes, augmentation combined with mastopexy is frequently performed in our practice. Again, it should only be performed by experienced plastic surgeons.
Is it possible to breastfeed after breast lift surgery?
It is possible to breast feed after breast lift as long as the nipple is left attached to the underlying breast tissue. Occasionally in lifts with tremendous amounts of excess skin it may be necessary to remove the nipple and place it back on as a free nipple graft. this is exceedingly rare. And while it is possibly to breast feed after mastopexy surgery, it is not guaranteed, there are too many variables at play.
Should I wait until after pregnancy to get a breast lift?
Pregnancy can really, really change a woman’s breasts. I usually recommend that if a patient is going to get pregnant in the next year, she delay breast surgery just because the breast will be different after pregnancy. How different a breast will become is impossible to predict. That being said there is no contraindication to pregnancy after an augmentation or lift, you just run the risk of wanting a revisionary surgery.
What questions should I ask my doctor before a breast lift?
Be very clear with your doctor what your goals are for your breast size and shape, your doctor can then tell you what she can reasonably achieve for you. Most of us would like to look great with or without a bra, whether or not that is possible depends on your body and your goals for size. The larger the breasts are the harder, faster and lower they will fall.
What is the recovery time from a breast lift surgery?
Depending on the amount of skin removed, most women are back at work after breast lift surgery anywhere from 2 days to 14 days after their procedure. The wide range is dependent more on what type of work the patient needs to be able to do. Heavy lifting or dirty work requires 14 days. Sedentary work requires only 2 -5 days depending on the amount of skin removed and how uncomfortable the patient feels with that degree of tightening.
What is the difference between a crescent breast lift and a vertical lift?
A crescent lift is a poor lift that does little but distort the areola shape. a donut lift or periareolar lift has a scar all the way around the areola and is good to lift the nipple height or reduce the size of the areola. It may have the tendency to flatten the breast. a Vertical lift is the donut lift with an additional vertical scar that extends down from the areola at the six o clock position. This lift is good to not only lift he nipple and areola but to reshape the breast into a conical shape.
Can I combine breast lift and areola reduction in one surgery?
By definition, a breast lift includes a scar around the areola, so an areola reduction is part of the lift. You can discuss your goals for size with your surgeon.
Will a breast lift without implants make breasts look smaller or larger?
As long as you don’t want to be smaller, your surgeon does not typically need to remove breast volume with a lift. the skin necessary to remove typically constitutes less than two or three tablespoons of volume per side. A breast lift changes your breast shape and position of your breasts, not your size, unless you ask to be made smaller. A general guide line is how you look in a sports bra or non-padded bra is the volume you will have after a lift.
What is frequently asked questions?
Frequently asked questions (FAQ) or Questions and Answers (Q&A), are listed questions and answers, all supposed to be commonly asked in some context, and pertaining to a particular topic.