What is Breast Lift (mastopexy)?
A breast lift restores a firmer, perkier, and more aesthetically pleasing shape to sagging breasts. A breast lift can improve a patient’s appearance by restoring her youthful, feminine proportions and help bras and swimsuits fit more comfortably and attractively.
A cosmetic surgeon can create a more youthful breast contour by removing excess, stretched-out skin, reshaping the breast tissue, and raising the nipple & areola into a more forward position. Stretched areolae can also be reduced during breast lift surgery, creating an overall better proportioned, natural-looking breast.
Common reasons women choose breast lift surgery or mastopexy:
- To restore a better breast shape following pregnancy & breastfeeding. Pregnancy can bring some unwelcome changes to the breasts, often leaving them stretched and sagging. A breast lift can help undo these changes and restore a more aesthetically pleasing appearance with or without implants.
- To improve breast contour after significant weight loss. Losing weight often means losing breast volume. A breast lift can help restore a more symmetrical, youthful breast shape by removing excess skin.
- To enjoy a beautiful, perky breast shape for the first time. Breast lift surgery can help a woman get the breast profile she has always wanted. A small but growing number of breast lift patients have had drooping breasts since their teens.
How to Tell if You Need Breast Lift (mastopexy)
While the only way to confirm whether a breast lift is right for you is to consult with a qualified cosmetic surgeon, there are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to get a general idea about how a breast lift might help improve your breast shape.
- Do my nipples seem to point downward? As skin at the base of the breast stretches out and begins to sag, the weight of breast tissue will pull the nipple downward. A breast lift will reposition the breast tissue so the nipples face forward.
- One trait cosmetic surgeon frequently looks for when evaluating a breast lift candidate is the position of the nipple/areola about the inframammary fold or crease beneath the breast. Does the nipple/areola sit below the crease underneath my breast? Try this test: slide a plain sheet of paper underneath your breast (no bra), so it sits against the breast crease. When looking in the mirror, do your nipples sit below the top edge of the paper? This is a good indication that you have enough sagging to warrant a breast lift.
- Am I happy with my breast size when wearing a bra? A breast lift alone will not significantly change the size of your breasts. It can help your breasts look fuller, rounder, and better in a bra, but if you want your breasts to be larger or smaller, a breast lift in conjunction with breast augmentation or reduction may be the right option.
- Are my breasts asymmetrical or unusually shaped? A skilled cosmetic surgeon can use breast lift techniques to restore a more rational, rounded shape to tuberous breasts. Since breast lift surgery reshapes the breast tissue and lifts sagging breasts, this procedure can be especially useful in improving breast symmetry.
What Breast Lift (mastopexy) Can’t Do
Consider combining breast lift and breast reduction surgery if you want smaller breasts. Breast lift surgery does not significantly change the size of your breasts or round out the upper part of your breast. If you want your breasts to look fuller, consider breast lift and breast augmentation surgery.
Who is the Right Candidate?
You may be a candidate for breast lift surgery if:
- You are physically healthy and maintain a stable weight
- You do not smoke
- You are bothered by the feeling that your breasts sag or have lost shape and volume.
- Your breasts have a flatter, elongated shape or are pendulous
- When unsupported, your nipples fall below the breast crease
- Your nipples and areolas point downward
- You have stretched skin and enlarged areolas
- One breast is lower than the other
What Should I Expect During a Consultation
During your breast lift consultation, be prepared to discuss:
- Your surgical goals`
- Medical conditions, drug allergies, and medical treatments
- Current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco, and drug use
- Previous surgeries
- If you have a family history of breast cancer
- The results of any mammograms or previous biopsies
Your surgeon may also:
- Evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
- Examine your breasts and may take detailed measurements of their size and shape, skin quality, and placement of your nipples and areolas
- Take photographs
- Discuss your options
- Recommend a course of treatment
- Discuss outcomes of breast lift surgery and any risks or potential complications
- Discuss the use of anesthesia during your breast lift
It’s essential to understand all aspects of your breast lift procedure. It’s natural to feel some anxiety, whether excitement for your anticipated fresh look or a bit of preoperative stress. Don’t be shy about discussing these feelings with your cosmetic surgeon.
What are the Risks of Breast Lift or Mastopexy?
The decision to have cosmetic surgery is highly personal. You’ll have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if breast lift surgery risks and potential complications are acceptable. You will be asked to sign consent forms to fully understand the procedure and any breast lift risks and potential complications.
Breast lift risks include:
- Anesthesia risks
- Bleeding or hematoma formation
- Poor healing of incisions
- Changes in nipple or breast sensation, which may be temporary or permanent
- Breast contour and shape irregularities
- Breast asymmetry
- Fatty tissue found deep in the skin might die (fat necrosis)
- Fluid accumulation
- Potential partial or total loss of nipple and areola
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Possibility of revision surgery
I will thoroughly discuss these risks and others before your consent. It would be best to address all your questions directly with your cosmetic surgeon.
How Should I Prepare for Breast Lift or Mastopexy?
- Get lab testing or a medical evaluation.
- Take certain medications or adjust your current medications
- Get a baseline mammogram before surgery and another one after surgery to help detect any future changes in your breast tissue.
- Stop smoking
- Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding.
Breast lift surgery may be performed in an accredited office-based surgical center, outpatient or ambulatory surgical facility, or a hospital. Be sure to arrange for someone to drive you to and from surgery and stay with you for at least the first night following surgery. In preparing for breast lift surgery, you may be asked to:
Cosmetic surgeons use various incision techniques for breast lift surgery; the exact method will vary based on a patient’s existing breast tissue, the amount of excess skin to be removed, and her personal goals. Your cosmetic surgeon will recommend the type of breast lift that will achieve optimal results with the least conspicuous scarring possible.
Crescent Lift: Minimal Scarring to Correct Minimal Sagging
Cosmetic surgeons may use the “crescent lift” technique for women who have a tiny amount of sagging to correct. This involves a small incision running halfway around the top half of the edge of the areola. Usually, a crescent lift is only done when a patient also has breast augmentation, and even in these cases, the crescent incision type is less frequently used.
Peri-Areolar or “Donut” Lift: Corrects Mild Sagging with a Single Scar
Women experiencing mild sagging yet still will benefit from a breast lift are often good candidates for a peri-areolar lift. This involves a circular incision running around the edge of the areola, and like the crescent lift, it is commonly performed in conjunction with breast augmentation. The resulting scar traces the edge of the areola. This lift can also help reduce areola size.
Vertical or “Lollipop” Lift: Corrects Moderate Sagging & Provides More Extensive Reshaping
This type of breast lift is commonly used to allow a cosmetic surgeon to remove excess skin and reshape the entire breast with modest, easily hidden scars. A vertical lift involves two incisions: one around the edge of the areola and one running vertically from the bottom of the areola to the infra-mammary fold, creating a “lollipop” shape.
Inverted T or “Anchor” Lift: Dramatic Reshaping to Correct Extensive Sagging
If you have considerable sagging, pendulous breasts, an anchor lift, which allows a cosmetic surgeon to remove a significant amount of excess skin and sagging tissues, may yield the best results. This technique involves three incisions: one around the edge of the areola, one vertically from the bottom of the areola to the breast crease, and one along the inframammary fold, hidden in the breast crease. Your cosmetic surgeon may also use this technique if you have a breast reduction with a lift. While the anchor lift comes with visible scarring, these typically fade significantly with proper care and are easily hidden by a bikini top.
What are the Steps?
Your breast lift procedure can be achieved through various incision patterns and techniques. The appropriate method for you will be determined based on:
- Breast size and shape
- The size and position of your areolas
- The degree of breast sagging
- Skin quality and elasticity, as well as the amount of extra skin
Step 1 – Anesthesia medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedure. Your doctor will recommend the best option for you. The choices include intravenous sedation and general anesthesia.
Step 2 – The incision there are three common incision patterns:
- 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
Step 3 – Reshaping your breasts after your doctor makes the incisions: The underlying breast tissue is lifted and reshaped to improve breast contour and firmness. The nipple and areola are repositioned to a natural, more youthful height. If necessary, enlarged areolas are reduced by excising skin at the perimeter. Excess breast skin is removed to compensate for a loss of elasticity.
Step 4 – Closing the incisions.
- After your breasts are reshaped and excess skin is removed, the remaining skin is tightened as the incisions are closed.
- 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 they will fade and significantly improve over time in most cases.
- Many women desire the smallest scar possible. However, your cosmetic surgeon will recommend the incisions that best suit your anatomy. Listen to your surgeon, and do not diminish your result by demanding an incision that will not be appropriate for you.
Combining a Breast Lift with Breast Augmentation
In some cases, a breast lift alone may not achieve a patient’s desired results. If you feel your breasts look “deflated” or have lost volume due to aging, weight loss, or pregnancy, your cosmetic surgeon can place breast implants during breast lift surgery to restore fullness and shape to the breast. If you have always wanted larger, lifted breasts, a breast augmentation with a lift can help you achieve a single procedure and recovery.
What Should I Expect During My Breast Lift or Mastopexy Recovery?
- Dressings or bandages will be applied to the incisions during your breast lift recovery after the procedure is completed.
- You’ll need to wear an elastic bandage or support bra to minimize swelling and support your breasts as they heal.
- A small, thin tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect. You will be given specific instructions that may include:
How to Care for Your Breasts Following Breast Lift or Mastopexy?
- Medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the potential for infection
- Specific concerns to look for at the surgical site or in your general health
- When following up with your cosmetic surgeon, ask your cosmetic surgeon specific questions about what you can expect during your breast lift recovery period.
- Where will I be taken after my surgery is complete?
- What medication will I be given or prescribed after surgery?
- Will I have dressings/bandages after surgery? When will they be removed?
- Are stitches removed? When?
- When can I resume regular activity and exercise?
- When do I return for follow-up care?
What Results Should I Expect after Breast Lift or Mastopexy?
- The results of your breast lift surgery are immediately visible. Over time, post-surgical swelling will resolve, and incision lines will fade.
- Satisfaction with your new image should continue to grow as you recover from surgery. The results of your breast lift will appear over the next few months as breast shape and position continue to settle. 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. You’ll be able to retain your fresh look longer if you:
- Maintain your weight
- Keep a healthy lifestyle.
- Following your physician’s instructions is essential to the success of your surgery. Surgical incisions mustn’t be subjected to excessive force, swelling, abrasion, or motion during healing. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself.
Breast lift or Mastopexy and Pregnancy
Breast changes can minimize or reverse the improvement a breast lift provides during pregnancy. Likewise, significant weight loss after breast surgery can negatively impact breast appearance. Breast surgery should be entertained after childbearing is completed.
Keeping Your Breast Lift Results Looking Their Best
Having a breast lift is like resetting the clock for sagging. Your breasts will still undergo natural changes due to the aging process, although with proper care, you should not experience your previous level of sagging for many years. However, it is crucial to understand that certain life events can negatively affect your results, such as future pregnancy or weight fluctuations. If you plan to have more children or want to lose weight, it is best to achieve these milestones before having a breast lift.