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Breast uplift surgery

Breast uplift surgery is an operation to lift and re-shape your breasts.

You will meet the surgeon carrying out your procedure to discuss your care. It may differ from what is described here as it will be designed to meet your individual needs.

About breast uplift surgery

Breast uplift surgery involves removing excess skin from underneath your breast or from around the area of dark tissue that surrounds your nipple (areola). Your surgeon will tighten the skin and tissue of your breast and move your nipple to a higher position to give a more youthful and firm appearance. A breast enlargement or breast reduction procedure can be done at the same time if required.

Getting advice about breast uplift surgery

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 a breast uplift operation, discuss with your surgeon what you’re hoping to gain from the operation and the result you can realistically expect.

What are the alternatives to breast uplift surgery?

Depending on what you’re hoping to achieve with 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.

Preparing for breast uplift surgery

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.

Breast uplift surgery usually requires an overnight stay in hospital and it’s usually done under general anaesthesia. This means you will be asleep during the operation. You will be asked to follow fasting instructions. This means not eating or drinking, typically for about six hours beforehand. However, it's important to follow your anaesthetist's advice.

At the hospital your nurse may check your heart rate and blood pressure, and test your urine.

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 understand what will happen, and you can help yourself by preparing questions to ask about the risks, benefits and any alternatives to the procedure. This will help you to be informed, so you can give your consent for the procedure to go ahead, which you will be asked to do by signing a consent form.

Your surgeon will measure your breasts and assess their shape and the position of your nipples. He or she may also mark the position of the surgical cuts on your breasts. Your surgeon may also take photographs so that the results of surgery can be compared with your original appearance.

You may need to have a mammogram (X-ray of your breasts) prior to your operation.

What happens during breast uplift surgery

The operation can take two to three hours, depending on the exact type of procedure you have.

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 or from under your breasts. He or she will 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 breast implants (usually made from silicone) to help give shape to your breast. Your surgeon will place this directly under the surface of your breast or beneath the muscle in your breast. If you have large breasts and want to make them smaller, your surgeon can remove some breast tissue at the same time.

When the operation is complete, your surgeon will close the cuts with stitches and may wrap your breasts in a special supportive dressing or use tape for support.

What to expect afterwards

You will need to rest until the effects of the anaesthetic have passed. You will need pain relief to help with any discomfort as the anaesthetic wears off.

You may have fine tubes running out from the wound. These drain fluid into a bag or bottle and are usually removed after a day or two.

Your nurse will give you advice about caring for healing wounds before you go home, as well as advice on how to care for your breasts, hygiene and bathing. You will be given a date for a follow-up appointment.

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.

You will 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.

General anaesthesia temporarily affects your co-ordination and reasoning skills, so you must not drive, drink alcohol, operate machinery or sign legal documents for 24 hours afterwards. If you’re in any doubt about driving, contact your motor insurer so that you’re aware of their recommendations, and always follow your surgeon's advice.

Recovering from breast uplift surgery

It usually takes about four weeks to make a full recovery from breast uplift surgery, but this varies between individuals, so it’s important to follow your surgeon’s advice. Your surgeon will give you advice about when you can resume your usual activities and return to work at your follow-up appointment.

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 and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.

You will need to wear a support bra for up to six weeks after your operation. 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.

After having breast uplift surgery, there is 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.

What are the risks?

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 differ for every person. Ask your surgeon to explain how these risks apply to you.

Side-effects

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 will have permanent scars, they will be pink and noticeable at first, but usually fade over time
  • altered (reduced) nipple sensation

Complications

Complications are when problems occur during or after the operation. 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 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) – these can be permanent
  • 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 may not be completely satisfied with your appearance after the operation.

 

Produced by Rachael Mayfield-Blake, Bupa Heath Information Team, June 2012.

For answers to frequently asked questions on this topic, see FAQs.

For sources and links to further information, see Resources.

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  • This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.

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