A breast lift—medically known as mastopexy—is a surgical procedure that raises the breasts and gives them a more youthful-looking contour. A breast lift can also reduce the loose skin that comes with age, significant weight loss or pregnancy and breast feeding. This procedure can also include reducing the size of the areola, which is the darker skin around the nipple.
- A breast lift performed on its own will not increase the size or change the shape of your breasts.
- Although a breast lift is possible at any age, surgeons recommend waiting until breast development is complete to undergo any breast-related cosmetic surgery.
- Depending on how much work is involved, a breast lift procedure takes 1-3 hours.
- You may not have as much sensation in your nipples and areolas as you had prior to surgery.
A breast lift performed on its own will not increase the size or change the shape of your breasts. Breast augmentation surgery, which is sometimes performed at the same time, will change the size and shape.
Breast lift surgery was the fourth most popular cosmetic surgical procedure in Australia in 2009 and the seventh most popular in the world. Around 5,600 breast lifts were completed in Australia in 2009. Breast lift surgery is most popular amongst women between the ages of 35 and 50.
Reasons for choosing to have a breast lift
Women opt for breast lift surgery for a number of reasons.
You are a good candidate for a breast lift if:
- Your breasts hang down loosely but you are happy with their size. If you feel they are too big, you can opt for a breast reduction as well.
- Your breasts lack firmness.
- When you don’t wear a bra your nipples are positioned way below the crease between your breasts and chest.
- You have downward-pointing nipples and areolas.
Although a breast lift is possible at any age, surgeons recommend waiting until breast development is complete to undergo any breast-related cosmetic surgery. Breasts are usually fully developed around 18 years of age.
Breast lifts are often performed after pregnancy and breastfeeding, because these events can change the shape of the breasts. However, breast lift surgery leaves the nipples, areolas and milk ducts intact and is unlikely to affect a woman’s ability to breast feed.
Things to consider once you’ve decided to have a breast lift
You need to discuss the following things with your surgeon prior to surgery:
- Size and shape of breasts Before surgery, you need to convey to your surgeon the exact size and shape you want your breasts to be.
- Repositioning of the nipples and areola At what level and location do you want them? Your surgeon will help you make this decision, often with image software.
- Areola reduction If you want the size of your areolas to be reduced, your surgeon can make breast lift incisions around the areola, removing some of the dark pigment.
- Incision location There are several methods of performing a breast lift. The location of the incisions largely depends on the current size and shape of your breasts. Your surgeon can help you make this decision. The three most common incision locations are:
- Around the areola. This incision is used if very little skin is to be removed.
- Around the areola and then vertically down to the crease of the breast.
- Around the areola, vertically down to the crease of the breast and then horizontally along the breast crease at the very base of the breast. The fewer incisions made, the less scarring will develop.
- Implants If you want breast implants in conjunction with a breast lift, a number of choices must be made. See our article on breast augmentation for more information.
What to expect
Depending on how much work is involved, a breast lift procedure takes 1-3 hours. The procedure can be done on an outpatient basis, and it may be possible to go home after the effects of anaesthesia have worn off. You may, however, be asked to stay in hospital overnight to be monitored.
After the incisions have been made, excess skin is removed, the nipples are repositioned and the skin re-draped and stitched back together. Small tubes may be inserted to allow fluids that accumulate in the wound to drain. These will be removed after a few days. You will also have gauze dressings on your breasts, usually covered with a surgical bra or elastic bandage.
For the first week you must sleep on your back. For the first few days your breasts will be bruised and swollen. Your surgeon may ask you to wear a compression garment for up to a week to keep swelling to a minimum and support your breasts as they heal. Your surgeon may also recommend wearing a sports bra for extra support for six weeks after surgery. Sometimes mild swelling can last up to four months.
Incisions will initially be red or pink in colour. Over time and with the correct scar management treatment, these scars will fade.
You may not have as much sensation in your nipples and areolas as you had before surgery. This is normal and usually temporary. Sometimes it can take weeks, months or even a year before normal sensation returns.
Although walking as soon as you are able helps prevent blood clots, strenuous activities such as exercise and heavy lifting should be avoided for at least a month.
You may feel discomfort from time to time. This is normal, but if you have severe pain, contact your surgeon.
Before and after surgery
Advise your surgeon if you have lost weight recently or plan to lose weight in the future. Your surgeon may recommend that you stabilise your weight before having surgery.
Before your surgery, make sure to have everything you need for a comfortable stay at home during the recovery period.
There are also a number of things you can do following any type of surgery.
In addition to following the general post-surgical guidelines, there are important things you must do to ensure successful healing. These include:
- Placing pillows under your head and upper back to help you sleep comfortably. A pillow under your knees will prevent you rolling over.
- Asking your surgeon when you can bathe or shower again. Because dressings need to be kept dry until the incisions close up, you may have to manage with sponge baths for a few days. You may also need help washing your hair, as you won’t be able to raise your hands above your head for a week or so.
Possible risks and complications
As with any surgical procedure, there are risks involved in breast lift surgery. You should be fully aware of these before you elect to have the procedure. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the list of complications that could arise as a result of any surgery.
Specific complications that could occur after a breast lift include:
- Asymmetry of breasts After breast lift surgery you may discover that your two breasts are not the same size or shape, or that the nipples are not the same size or are at different heights. If any of these things happen, revision surgery may be required.
- Losing breast or nipple sensation This can be permanent or temporary, depending on the extent of nerve damage. Permanent loss of sensation is unlikely and rare.
- Permanent scarring on the breasts Usually scars around the areolas are not very obvious, but the vertical and horizontal scars will remain. Heavy bruising during surgery or internal bleeding can often increase the size of scars.
The best way to reduce risk in any surgery is to find a fully qualified surgeon with formal training in breast lift surgery who has performed the procedure many times.
Just as you would discuss potential benefits before surgery, it is always advisable to ask your surgeon to address the potential risks as they apply to you.
Rough costs involved
The cost of a breast lift will vary depending on the surgeon you choose and the facilities used. Your surgeon will help you estimate potential costs after an initial consultation.
Expect surgeon’s fees for a breast lift to cost between $6000 and $8000 (AUD). You’ll need to add the assistant surgeon’s fees, anaesthetist’s fee, hospital facilities and the cost of follow up visits to this figure.
If you have implants inserted at the same time your costs, including the cost of implants would come to around $12,000 (AUD).
Some Australian private health insurers may help pay for the hospital bed and theatre fees. Getting a doctor’s referral could enable you to make a claim on these costs.
You should expect the costs to be higher if you are having combined procedures at the same time.
This information is correct as of 2019.