Your surgeon will advise you on which type of surgery is best for you and how long you need to stay in the hospital or surgical center based on your diagnosis, age, medical history, general health, and possibly your personal preference. Learn about the different breast reduction procedures and ask why your surgeon will use a particular type for you.

Types of anesthesia that may be used

Your surgeon will perform breast reduction surgery using either general anesthesia or regional anesthesia, depending on the specific procedure.

  • General anesthesia is a combination of intravenous (IV) medications and gases that put you in a deep sleep. You are unaware of the surgery and do not feel any pain. You may also receive a peripheral nerve block infusion in addition to general anesthesia. A peripheral nerve block infusion is an injection or continuous drip of liquid anesthetic. The anesthetic flows through a tiny tube inserted near your surgical site to control pain during and after surgery.
  • Regional anesthesia is also known as a nerve block. It involves injecting an anesthetic around certain nerves to numb a large area of the body. You will likely have sedation with regional anesthesia to keep you relaxed and comfortable.

What to expect the day of your breast reduction

The day of your surgery, you can generally expect to:

  • Talk with a preoperative nurse. The nurse will perform an exam and ensure that all needed tests are in order. The nurse can also answer questions and will make sure you understand and sign the surgical consent form.
  • Remove all clothing and jewelry and dress in a hospital gown. It is a good idea to leave all jewelry and valuables at home or with a family member. Your care team will give you blankets for modesty and warmth.
  • Talk with the surgeon, anesthesiologist, or nurse anesthetist about your medical history and the type of anesthesia you will have.
  • A surgical team member will start an IV.
  • The surgeon, anesthesiologist, or nurse anesthetist will start your anesthesia.
  • A tube may be placed in your windpipe to protect and control breathing during general anesthesia. You will not feel or remember this or the surgery as they happen. 
  • The surgical team will monitor your vital signs and other critical body functions. This occurs throughout the procedure and your recovery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable.

What are the risks and potential complications of a breast reduction?  

As with all surgeries, a breast reduction involves risks and possible complications. Complications may become serious and life threatening in some cases. Complications can develop during surgery or recovery.

General risks of surgery 

The general risks of surgery include: 

  • Anesthesia reaction, such as an allergic reaction and problems with breathing 
  • Bleeding, which can lead to shock
  • Blood clot, in particular a deep vein thrombosis that develops in the leg or pelvis. A blood clot can travel to your lungs, heart or brain and cause a pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke.
  • Infection and septicemia, which is the spread of a local infection to the blood

Potential complications of a breast reduction

Complications of a breast reduction include:

  • Change in color of nipples and areola, which may be permanent
  • Change or loss of nipple and areola sensation, which may be permanent
  • Differences in breast sizes
  • Difficulty with breastfeeding or inability to breast feed
  • Large scars that may remain visible
  • Loss of nipples and areola
  • Uneven position of nipples or contour of your breasts

Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce the risk of some complications by following the treatment plan and:

  • Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations before surgery and during recovery
  • Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as bleeding, fever, increase in pain, or wound redness, swelling or drainage 
  • Informing your doctor or radiologist if you are nursing or if there is any possibility of pregnancy. It is also important to tell your doctor if you plan on becoming pregnant, breastfeeding, or losing weight in the future.
  • Taking your medications exactly as directed
  • Telling all members of your care team if you have any allergies 
  • Wearing a post-surgical support bra as directed by your healthcare provider