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The Truth About Breast Lifts

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 20 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Cosmetic Surgery Breast Lift Breast

For many women keen to regain the pert, firm bust line of their youth, a breast lift seems to be the ideal solution to their sagging breasts problem.

Known officially as a mastopexy, a breast lift is a cosmetic surgery procedure which lifts and firms the breasts by removing any excess fat deposits and skin around the drooping breasts and tightening up the surrounding skin and tissue to provide better support for the newly-reshaped breasts.

While it gives good results, like all cosmetic surgery procedures, breast lifts come with certain risks and it is important to understand these before deciding if this is the anti ageing treatment for you.

Ageing & Sagging Breasts

Unfortunately, the natural ageing process, combined with the effects of gravity, mean that all breasts will eventually lose their youthful firmness and sag over time. Breasts are only made up of fat, ligaments, connective tissue – as gravity pulls on the ligaments and connective tissue, they are irreversibly stretched and the weight of the breasts cause them to sag.

As breasts do not contain any muscle tissue, it is not possible to tone and tighten them through exercise. Certain factors can exacerbate the extent of sagging – for example, pregnancy and breastfeeding, extreme weight fluctuations and your genes, as well as any excessive stretching of breast tissue due to vigorous activity (eg. jogging) unsupported by an appropriate bra.

Who Can Have a Breast Lift?

While breast lifts are a relatively straightforward cosmetic surgery procedure, they are not necessarily appropriate for everyone. It is important that you are in good physical health and that you can maintain a stable weight; it is also important that you do not smoke.

It is also important to have realistic expectations and a realistic understanding of the human anatomy. All natural breasts will sag a little bit – but women who have breasts that are pendulous or of an elongated shape and whose nipples fall below the breast crease when unsupported – or who have enlarged areolas and stretched skin – are the best candidates for a breast lift.

Before The Breast Lift

The choice of a qualified, experienced plastic surgeon is extremely important. During the initial consultation, you will be asked about your medical history – especially about any family history of breast cancer and the results of any previous mammograms or biopsies. You will also be asked about any medications, herbal or nutritional supplements you are currently taking and about your usual use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

The plastic surgeon may examine your breasts and take detailed measurements whilst noting your preference for shape, position and placement of nipples and areolas. He/she may also discuss cosmetic surgery and anaesthetic options – and it is vital that you fully understand the risks associated with the procedure.

Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on preparing for the surgery, which may including adjusting any current medications and getting a baseline mammogram which will help you detect any future changes in your breast tissue after surgery. You should stop smoking well in advance of the surgery and also avoid taking any anti-inflammatory drugs, herbal supplements and aspirin in the weeks leading up to the operation as these can encourage bleeding.

During The Breast Lift

Before the cosmetic surgery commences, you will be given either an intravenous sedation or a general anaesthetic. Incisions are then made either just around the areola or around the areola and also vertically down to the breast crease or as before but with a third incision horizontally along the breast crease. Now the breasts are reshaped by lifting the underlying breast tissue and removing any excess skin, which will compensate for any loss of elasticity.

The nipple and areola are also usually repositioned to achieve a natural, more youthful appearance and any enlarged areolas are also reduced. Finally, the incisions are closed using sutures layered deep into the breast tissue to help support the newly reshaped breasts. In addition, the skin is closed using more sutures or skin adhesives or surgical tape.

Often, incision lines will be hidden in the natural breast contours and creases but any that remain on the breast surface will usually fade over time. There will be an immediate result in terms of breast profile after the surgery, although the post-surgery swelling and the incisions lines may take some time to fade.

Complications of Breast Lift Surgery

Any type of surgery always carries an element of risk and cosmetic surgery is no different. There can be complications during the procedure from the anaesthetic and from excessive bleeding. There is also a risk of damage to other, deeper body structures – such as blood vessels, nerves, muscles and even the lungs, as well as allergic reactions to any of the introduced items such as suture materials, blood products, topical preparations and injected agents. However, most of the complications are more likely to arise after the surgery. These include:

  • Poor healing of incisions and scarring
  • Infection
  • Loss of or change in nipple or breast sensation, which may be permanent
  • Bleeding and the formation of haematomas
  • Fat necrosis
  • Asymmetry or irregularity to breast contour and shape
  • Skin discolouration, such as swelling, bruising and permanent pigmentation changes
  • Blood clots and deep vein thrombosis
  • The possibility of further surgery

If you experience any of these symptoms – or if you notice a shortness of breath or chest pain, then seek medical help immediately. It is also important to follow your surgeon’s instructions to allow your incisions to heal in the best and fastest way possible.

You will probably have to wear a support bra or elastic bandage to support breasts as they heal and if you have any excess fluid or blood collecting in the wounds, you may need to have a small, thin tube temporarily inserted to drain these away.

It will be another few months before the final results of the breast lift will be apparent, as your breasts’ shape and position will continue to settle. The results usually last a long time, although a breast lift does not prevent you from future ageing and sagging. This can be reduced by maintaining a healthy weight and keeping a healthy lifestyle.

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