What are the risks and potential complications of a breast reduction?
Any surgery involves risks and potential complications. Complications may become serious and life threatening in some cases. Complications can develop during the procedure or throughout your recovery.
General risks of surgery
The general risks of surgical procedures include:
- Adverse reaction or problems related to anesthesia, such as an allergic reaction and problems with breathing
- Bleeding, which can lead to shock
- Blood clots, 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
Most breast reduction surgeries are successful with little or no complications. However, complications of breast reduction surgery can occur and they can be serious. You can best reduce the risk of potential complications and help manage complications if any occur by following the treatment plan you and your surgeon design specifically for you. Potential complications 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 certain complications by:
- Ensuring that all members of you care team are aware of any allergies you have
- 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 that you may be pregnant. 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
- Wearing a post-surgical support bra as directed by your healthcare provider
How do I prepare for my breast reduction?
You are a very important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before surgery can improve your outcome after the procedure. You can best prepare yourself for breast reduction surgery by:
- Answering all questions about your medical history and medications you take. This includes prescribed medications, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
- Getting pre-operative testing as directed. Testing varies depending on your age, health, and specific procedure. Pre-operative testing may include a breast exam, mammograms, chest X-rays, blood tests, and other tests as needed.
- If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about losing weight before the surgery through a healthy diet and exercise plan.
- Not eating or drinking just prior to surgery as directed. Your doctor may cancel your surgery if you eat or drink too close to the start of the procedure due to a risk of complications. These include choking on stomach contents during deep anesthesia.
- Stop smoking as soon as possible. Even quitting for a just few days can be helpful.
- Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. For breast reduction surgery, this may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and blood thinners.
Questions to ask your doctor
Facing surgery can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. You should contact your doctor when questions come up before surgery and between appointments. It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions and a friend or family member to your pre-operative appointments. Questions can include:
© Copyright 2012 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.