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Breast uplift surgery (mastopexy)
Published by Bupa's health information team, July 2008.
This factsheet is for women who are planning to have breast uplift operation (mastopexy), or who would like information about it.
Breast uplift surgery is done to lift and re-shape your breasts.
Your care will be adapted to meet your individual needs and may differ from what is described here. So it's important that you follow your surgeon's advice.
About breast uplift surgery
Breast uplift surgery involves removing skin from underneath the breast or from around the areola (the area of dark tissue surrounding the nipple). The skin and tissue of the breast is tightened and your nipple is moved to a higher position to give a more youthful and firm appearance. A breast enlargement or reduction procedure may be done at the same time.
It's important not to rush into the decision to have cosmetic surgery. Discuss your options with your GP, who may be able to recommend a reputable surgeon or give advice about how to choose which hospital to be treated in.
Before opting for breast uplift operation, discuss with your surgeon what you are hoping to gain from the operation and the result you can realistically expect.
Preparing for your operation
Your surgeon will explain how to prepare for your operation. For example, if you smoke, you will be asked to stop as smoking increases your risk of getting a chest and wound infection, which can slow your recovery.
Bring in a soft, supportive bra without under-wiring to wear after surgery. Your surgeon will advise you about the most suitable type of bra beforehand.
Breast uplift surgery usually requires an overnight stay in hospital. The procedure is done under general anaesthesia. This means you will be asleep during the operation.
You will be asked to follow fasting instructions. Typically, you must not eat or drink for about six hours before a general anaesthetic. However some anaesthetists allow occasional sips of water until two hours beforehand.
At the hospital your nurse may check your heart rate and blood pressure, and test your urine.
Your surgeon will explain the procedure and ask you to sign a consent form. This confirms that you understand the risks, benefits and possible alternatives to the procedure and have given your permission for it to go ahead.
Your surgeon will measure your breasts and assess their shape and the position of your nipples. Your surgeon may mark the position of the surgical cuts on your breasts. Photographs may be taken, so that the results of surgery can be compared with your original appearance and you may have a mammogram (X-ray of your breasts).
About the operation
Your surgeon will make several cuts on your breasts. The exact number and position of the cuts will vary, depending on the technique your surgeon uses. The operation can take two hours or more, depending on what needs to be done.
Skin is either removed from around the areola or from under your breasts. The nipples are re-positioned, and the size of the areola may be reduced, to suit the new shape.
Your surgeon may need to insert implants to help give shape to the breast (breast enlargement). If you have large breasts, your surgeon may need to remove some breast tissue to stop them from drooping (breast reduction).
When the operation is complete, the cuts are closed with stitches (which may be dissolvable) and your breasts are wrapped in a special supportive dressing or support bra.
Fine plastic tubes may be left in each breast for up to 48 hours afterwards. These allow blood and fluids to drain into a bag.
What to expect afterwards
You will need to rest until the effects of the anaesthetic have passed. You may need pain relief to help with any discomfort as the anaesthetic wears off.
You will need to arrange for someone to drive you home. If you are going home on the same day as your operation, you should have a friend or relative stay with you for the first 24 hours.
Before you go home, your nurse will give you advice about caring for your breasts, hygiene and bathing. You will usually be given a date for a follow-up appointment.
Dissolvable stitches will disappear in seven to 10 days. Non-dissolvable stitches are removed seven to 14 days after surgery.
Recovering from breast uplift surgery
If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the patient information that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.
General anaesthesia temporarily affects your co-ordination and reasoning skills, so you must not drive, drink alcohol, operate machinery or sign legal documents for 48 hours afterwards. If you are in any doubt about driving, please contact your motor insurer so that you are aware of their recommendations, and always follow your surgeon's advice.
Follow your surgeon's advice about driving. You shouldn't drive until you are confident that you could perform an emergency stop without discomfort.
You will need to wear your support bra for four to six weeks after the operation. This helps to stop the weight of the breasts pulling on the healing wounds. Your breasts will feel sore and you will have swelling for a few weeks. Using extra pillows when sleeping can help reduce the swelling around your breasts.
Don't lift heavy objects or do any strenuous activity for the first six weeks after the operation. If the implant is placed under your chest muscle, activity may be restricted for longer.
If you develop any of the following symptoms contact your GP as you may have developed an infection:
increasing pain or pain that can't be controlled with painkillers
breasts feel unusually hot to the touch
discharge from the wound
At your follow-up appointment, your surgeon will give advice about when you can resume your usual activities and return to work.
It may take several months before your breasts settle into their new shape.
What are the risks?
Breast uplift surgery is commonly performed and generally safe. However, in order to make an informed decision and give your consent, you need to be aware of the possible side-effects and the risk of complications of this procedure.
These are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects of a successful treatment, for example feeling sick as a result of the general anaesthetic.
Side-effects of breast uplift surgery include:
soreness, swelling and bruising - this can last up to a month
burning sensation in your nipples - this can last several weeks
scarring - you will have permanent scars, they will be pink and noticeable at first, but usually fade gradually over time
This is when problems occur during or after the operation. Most women having breast uplift surgery are not affected. The possible complications of any operation include an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic, excessive bleeding or developing a blood clot, usually in a vein in the leg (deep vein thrombosis, DVT).
Complications specific to breast uplift surgery are uncommon but can include:
infection - antibiotics can help treat an infection
bleeding under your skin (haematoma) - this may require surgery to stop the bleeding and drain the area
change in skin and nipple sensation - this can be permanent
unusual red or raised scars (keloids) - these can take years to improve
an unevenness in size and shape - possibly caused by natural differences highlighted by the surgery
loss of part, or even all, of a nipple - changes in blood supply can cause tissue death
It's possible that you may not be completely satisfied with your appearance after the operation.
The exact risks are specific to you and differ for every person, so we have not included statistics here. Ask your surgeon to explain how these risks apply to you.
- British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS)
020 7405 2234
- The British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS)
020 7831 5161
- Mastopexy. British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. www.baaps.org.uk, accessed 13 May 2008
- Breast uplift (breast lift/mastopexy). Department of Health. www.dh.gov.uk, accessed 13 May 2008
This information was published by Bupa's health information team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by Bupa doctors. The content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
Publication date: July 2008.