It's important not to rush into a decision to have any cosmetic procedure, including breast uplift surgery. Spend some time looking into the type of surgery you’re thinking about. Discuss your options with your GP. They may be able to recommend a good surgeon or give advice about which hospital to choose. You can also check the relevant qualifications of surgeons online, using websites such as The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.
Before opting for a breast uplift operation, discuss with your surgeon what you’re hoping to gain from the procedure. Ask about the result you can realistically expect and the risks and possible complications of the surgery. Remember, it’s OK to take a list of questions with you when you meet your surgeon. This is your chance to get all the information you need to make the decision whether to have surgery or not.
A good surgeon will encourage you to take a few weeks as a ‘cooling off’ period before you go ahead with your surgery. If you still have questions a second consultation with your surgeon may help.
Your surgeon will explain how to prepare for your breast lift surgery. For example, if you smoke you’ll be advised to stop, perhaps for a couple of weeks before your surgery. Smoking increases your risk of getting a chest and wound infection, which can slow your recovery. Your surgeon may also recommend that you lose some excess weight if you have it.
Breast uplift surgery usually requires an overnight stay in hospital and it’s usually done under general anaesthesia. This means you’ll be asleep during the operation. You’ll probably be asked not to eat or drink anything for about six hours before your operation. However, it's important to follow your anaesthetist's advice.
Your surgeon will discuss with you what will happen before, during and after your procedure, and any pain you might have. This is your opportunity to ask questions so that you understand what will be happening. You don’t have to go ahead with the procedure if you decide you don’t want it. Once you understand the procedure and if you agree to have it, you’ll be asked to sign a consent form.
Your surgeon will measure your breasts and assess their shape and the position of your nipples. They may also mark the position of the surgical cuts on your breasts. Your surgeon may recommend that you have an ultrasound scan or mammogram (X-ray of your breasts) before your operation.
Depending on what you’re hoping to achieve with breast uplift surgery, there may be an alternative, more suitable cosmetic operation. For example, a breast reduction operation or breast enlargement operation may be a better option for you. Ask your surgeon to explain your options to you.
The breast uplift operation can take between two and three hours, depending on the exact type of procedure you have. You’ll probably stay in hospital overnight afterwards.
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.
Your surgeon will remove skin from around your areola and/or from under your breasts. They may then re-position your nipples and may reduce the size of your areola to suit the new shape.
If you’re having a breast enlargement at the same time, your surgeon will insert a breast implant. This will help give shape to each breast. Breast implants are usually made from silicone. Your surgeon will place the implant directly under your breast tissue or behind the chest muscle.
When the operation is complete, your surgeon will close the cuts with stitches. They may wrap your breasts in a special supportive dressing or use tape for support.
After your breast uplift surgery, you’ll need to rest until the effects of the anaesthetic have passed. You’ll be offered pain relief to help with any discomfort you have. You may need to have fine tubes running out from the wound to drain excess fluid into a bag or bottle. They are usually removed after a day or two.
Your nurse will give you advice about caring for healing wounds before you go home. You’ll also get advice on how to care for your breasts, hygiene and showering. You’ll be given a date for a follow-up appointment.
You’ll need to arrange for someone to drive you home. Try to have a friend or relative stay with you for the first 24 hours after your operation.
The medicines used for general anaesthesia can stay in your body for a while. Because of this it’s safest not to drive, drink alcohol, operate machinery or make important decisions for 24 hours after your anaesthetic. If you’re in any doubt about driving, contact your motor insurer so that you’re aware of their recommendations. Always follow your surgeon's advice.
You’ll probably need about two weeks off work after breast uplift surgery, but of course this depends on what your job involves. You shouldn’t do any strenuous exercise, including swimming, for around a month. Ask your surgeon when you can resume your usual activities and return to work.
If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. If you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.
Your surgeon will probably recommend that you wear a firm dressing or support bra for a few weeks while you heal. This will help to stop the weight of your breasts pulling on your healing wounds. A sports bra may be suitable – ask your surgeon or nurse for advice.
The length of time your dissolvable stitches will take to disappear depends on what type you have. However, for this procedure they should usually disappear in about seven to 10 days. If you have non-dissolvable stitches, these will be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery.
After having breast uplift surgery, there's a risk of infection. An infected wound can take longer to heal and may result in a more noticeable scar.
Contact your surgeon for advice if you have a high temperature or your wound:
- is sore
- feels hot and swollen
- looks red, or starts to weep
It may take several months before your breasts settle into their new shape.
As with every procedure, there are some risks associated with breast uplift surgery. We haven’t included the chance of these happening as they are specific to you and different for every person. Ask your surgeon to explain how these risks apply to you.
Side-effects are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects you may get after having the procedure. Side-effects of breast uplift surgery include:
- soreness, swelling and bruising
- scarring – you’ll have permanent scars, they’ll be pink and noticeable at first, but usually fade over time
- altered (reduced) nipple sensation
Complications are when problems occur during or after the operation. Some complications can happen after any operation. You might develop chest problems, for instance, especially if you smoke. And there’s always a chance you might get a blood clot, usually in a vein in the leg (deep vein thrombosis, DVT).
Complications specific to breast uplift surgery include:
- an infection – you may need antibiotics to treat this
- bleeding under your skin (haematoma) – this may require surgery to stop the bleeding and drain the area
- unusual red or raised scars (keloids or hypertrophic scars) – these may be permanent or can fade
- an unevenness in size and shape – possibly caused by natural differences highlighted by the surgery
- loss of part, or even all, of your nipple – changes in blood supply can cause the tissue to die
It's possible that you will not be able to breastfeed after breast uplift surgery – but for most women this isn’t a problem.
Remember that, over time your breasts will naturally fall again. The effects of your breast uplift surgery will not last forever.
Are the results of breast uplift permanent or will I need top-up surgery in the future?
Your breasts may increase in size and droop if you put on weight or become pregnant after having breast uplift surgery. Your breasts may also change shape with age.
Your breast size alters with body weight so if you gain or lose weight your breasts will change shape. Your breasts may also increase in size during pregnancy and breastfeeding, getting smaller again afterwards.
Before you opt to have breast uplift surgery, discuss with your surgeon how weight gain or a pregnancy may affect the shape of your breasts. Many women decide to wait until after they have had children before having breast uplift or breast reduction surgery.
Breasts will inevitably droop again in the future. To help maintain the shape and appearance of your breasts after your uplift, keep your weight steady and wear a suitable bra to provide support.
How can I know if breast uplift surgery is right for me?
Your surgeon can tell you how breast uplift surgery may affect your appearance. However, only you can decide whether the operation is right for you.
Don't rush into a decision to have cosmetic surgery. Talk to your GP – they may be able to recommend a good surgeon or tell you how to find one. Or they might be able to give advice about which hospital to choose.
The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) and the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) provide a list of qualified cosmetic surgeons. See our resources section for more details about these two professional organisations.
Before opting for breast uplift surgery, discuss with your surgeon what you're hoping to gain from the operation and the result you can realistically expect.
Clearly explain to your surgeon what you think is wrong and what and how you want it changed. Only go ahead with the surgery if you're happy that your surgeon fully understands what you want. It’s important that you understand what the operation involves and how your breasts are likely to look afterwards.
There are risks associated with the procedure, as with any surgery. These include excessive bleeding, infection and possible permanent changes in sensation and scarring. You need to consider these risks carefully when making your decision.
How much does breast uplift surgery cost?
Breast lift surgery is not usually available on the NHS. The cost of private breast uplift surgery can vary.
Breast uplift surgery, like many other types of cosmetic surgery, is not usually available on the NHS. It may, however, be offered in a few circumstances – for instance as part of reconstructive surgery after breast cancer.
If you choose to pay for breast uplift surgery you will probably pay a ‘package’ price. The costs vary from surgeon to surgeon and clinic to clinic.
Never base your decision on costs alone when deciding where to be treated. It’s important to always consider the quality of your surgeon and the hospital or clinic when making your decision.
Is it possible to breastfeed after breast uplift surgery?
Having breast uplift surgery doesn’t usually affect your ability to breastfeed but it can do if your nipples are re-positioned during breast uplift surgery.
It's important to consider if you might want to breastfeed in the future when making your decision about whether to go ahead with breast uplift or a breast reduction operation. You may not be able to breastfeed after the surgery if the procedure involves re-positioning your nipples. This is because your nipples may need to be separated from your milk ducts to re-position them.
If you're considering breastfeeding in the future, ask your surgeon about techniques where the nipples are left connected (even partially) to the milk ducts.
- Breast mastopexy. Medscape. www.emedicine.medscape.com, published 15 September 2014
- Complications of plastic surgery. OSH Post-operative complications (online). Oxford Medicine Online. www.oxfordmedicine.com, published October 2011 (online version)
- Breast uplift. British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS). www.baaps.org.uk, accessed 29 January 2015
- Breast augmentation. British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS). www.baaps.org.uk, accessed 29 January 2015
- Considering cosmetic surgery? British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS). www.bapras.org.uk, accessed 29 January 2015
- Breast lift surgery (mastopexy). American Society of Plastic Surgeons. www.plasticsurgery.org, accessed 29 January 2015
- Simple wound management and suturing. PatientPlus. www.patient.co.uk/patientplus.asp, published 20 April 2011
- Common postoperative complications. PatientPlus. www.patient.co.uk/patientplus.asp, published 11 February 2013
- Interim clinical commissioning policy: breast reduction and breast lift (mastopexy) surgery. NHS England 2013. www.england.nhs.uk
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Reviewed by Dylan Merkett, Bupa Health Content Team, May 2015.
Peer reviewed by Mr Rajan Uppal FRCS (Plast), BAAPS, BAPRAS, ISAPS, ASPS
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