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A breast lift or mastopexy can improve the appearance of the breasts in several ways. It raises the breast tissue, repositions the nipple and areola (the brownish area around the nipple), and enhances breast shape. If the areola have been stretched over time, they can also be reduced in size. With age, weight loss or childbirth, a woman's breasts may lose their shape and tone, so that the breast tissues begin to sag and eventually the nipples point downwards. Women who undergo a breast lift may also seek to increase the size of their breasts with a breast implant. Breast lift surgery is usually performed under a general anaesthetic. Some people may be up and about in a day or two, but you shouldn't plan on returning to (non-strenuous work) for around one to two weeks after surgery. It is unlikely that anyone considering a mastopexy would be able to access this free of charge on the National Health Service (NHS). Private costs for a breast lift can range from approximately £4,500 - £5,500.
In today's society, the firm, pert female breast symbolises youth, health and vitality. However, with age, weight loss or childbirth, a woman's breasts may lose their shape and tone, so that the breast tissues begin to sag and eventually the nipples point downwards.
A breast lift (mastopexy) can improve the appearance of the breasts in several ways. It raises the breast tissue, repositions the nipple and areola (brownish pigmentation around the nipple), and enhances breast shape. If the areola have been stretched over time, they can be reduced in size. Women who undergo a breast lift may also seek to increase the size of their breasts with a breast implant.
Statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) report that 158,964 breast lift operations were performed in the U.S. in 2018, an increase of 11.4% on 2017 figures, and an amazing increase of 55.9% on the number procedures undertaken in 2014. Breast lift is currently the 3rd most popular surgical procedure in the USA.
No official figures are yet available for the U.K., but this procedure is becoming increasingly popular.
Traditional techniques for breast lift surgery can produce impressive and beautiful results, and have been used for many years.
Recently, surgeons have been trying to reduce the number of visible scars used in the surgery without reducing the effectiveness of the operation. Surgical techniques which involve very few cuts with a scalpel are increasingly being discovered by surgeons to create rounded, firm breasts.
If you are considering breast surgery the following information will give you a basic understanding of the procedure. It can't answer all your questions, since a lot depends on the individual patient and the surgeon.
Please ask a surgeon about anything you don't understand.
When you first meet your surgeon you should clearly set out how you would like to look after the treatment and whether this is possible for you.
Careful discussions regarding the reasons for wanting breast lift surgery are very important at this stage. The surgeon will then examine your breasts and measure them while you're sitting or standing. He or she should provide information about the procedure and discuss the factors that may affect the operation--such as your age, the size and shape of your breasts, and the condition of your skin--and whether an implant is advisable. You should also discuss where the nipple and areola will be positioned. You need as much information as is possible to enable you to make a fully informed choice about the type of breast lift surgery suitable for you. You may also need to think carefully about any suggestions from your surgeon about implants being inserted at the same time as your breast lift operation. The implants are used to increase breast firmness and size. (Please see our breast implants section for more details).
At this time, a medical history should be taken, to make sure that there are no reasons why you shouldn’t undertake this procedure. You would normally be asked to sign a consent form which means that you have understood both the benefits and risks associated with breast lift surgery.
Photographs may also be taken by the practitioner for a “before and after” comparison later.
The surgeon may wish to write to your G.P. giving details of the operation so that if there are any problems associated with surgery in the short- or long-term, the G.P. is aware of the procedure and can help you to recover.
Breast lift surgery is usually performed under a general anaesthetic. In some cases, your surgeon may advise the use of a local anaesthetic, combined with a sedative to make you drowsy, so that you remain awake but feel very little discomfort during the operation.
Remember that having a general anaesthetic has a small risk attached to it that your surgeon should discuss with you.
Your breast lift would usually be performed in a hospital, or a surgeon’s clinic, and usually doesn’t require an overnight stay. A breast lift takes between one and a half and three and a half hours. There are different techniques which can be used, but the surgery usually begins with the surgeon making a cut underneath your breast which follows the natural curve of the breast. He then makes another cut which runs from the nipple down towards the bottom of the breast. You might imagine the incisions which are made being like the shape of an anchor.
The cut marks the area from which breast skin will be removed. When the excess skin has been removed, the nipple and areola are moved to the higher position. The skin surrounding the areola is then pulled tightly down and together to reshape the breast. Stitches are usually put in around the areola, in a line running downwards from the nipple area, and along the lower crease of the breast.
Some patients, especially those with relatively small breasts and not much sagging, may be better suited to slightly different procedures requiring fewer incisions which would reduce the scarring. One such procedure is the "doughnut (or concentric) mastopexy," in which a circular cut is made around the areola, and a doughnut-shaped area of skin is removed.
Additionally there is the "crescent" technique that involves removing a crescent-shaped piece of tissue above the areola and then just having the skin pulled up towards the top of the breast. This creates a minor lift for patients who have only slight sagging.
Another technique which requires little cutting is called the "lollipop" because the incision is made around the nipple area with a line running down the breast. If you have the "lollipop”, a third incision along the crease underneath the breast, used in traditional operations, is not necessary. In this technique, the breast tissue is built up in the middle in a "cone," shape, bringing in breast tissue from the sides and middle of the breast. The result of this operation is that your breasts will stick out more!
Everyone heals at a different rate. Some patients may be up and about in a day or two, but you shouldn’t plan on returning to (non-strenuous work) for around one to two weeks after surgery.
Side Effects and Risks
Your breasts will be tender and swollen after this operation. The amount of post-operative swelling and bruising depends on whether you tend to bruise or swell easily. The amount you can expect varies for each individual but you should know how quickly you usually heal. Occasionally, swelling can last for many weeks in some individuals.
As with all surgery, there is always a possibility of side effects or complications including infection, a reaction to the anaesthesia, bleeding and nerve damage.
Risks of infection are small, but should it occur your surgeon will prescribe appropriate antibiotics. Bleeding and infection following a breast lift are uncommon, but, if they do happen, they can cause scars to widen.
A breast lift does leave noticeable, permanent scars. They often remain lumpy and red for months, and then gradually become less obvious, sometimes eventually fading to thin white lines. Poor healing and wider scars are more common in smokers. The procedure can also leave you with unevenly positioned nipples, or a permanent loss of feeling in your nipples or breasts.
A breast lift will not make breasts firm forever, the effects of gravity, pregnancy, ageing, and weight fluctuations will eventually take their toll again and your breasts may alter in shape and firmness. Women who have breast implants at the same time as a breast lift may find the results last longer.
NB: If you become pregnant, the operation should not affect your ability to breast-feed, since your milk ducts and nipples will not be interfered with by the surgery.
It is very important that you follow the advice of your surgeon carefully after your operation.
Post-surgery advice may include:
Most women can have a breast lift. You need to be in general good health and to make sure that you know what to expect from the operation and will not be disappointed by it. Be realistic!
If you have experienced healing problems with any past surgical treatments or if you are prone to keloid (red, angry, raised) scars, your surgeon may not recommend a breast lift or may caution you that scars could be raised and very visible.
Who Can Do It
Only fully trained and qualified surgeons should perform a Breast Lift or Mastopexy procedure.
For more information about practitioner training, qualifications and relevant medical organisations please view the information contained within the Legislation section of the Consulting Room.
It is unlikely that anyone considering a mastopexy or breast lift operation would be able to access this free of charge on the National Health Service.
However certain regions do make special cases and we would always recommend that you visit your General Practitioner before embarking upon a major cosmetic procedure.
As well as their advice and guidance they may also be able to refer you to a local NHS Hospital who can treat you.
The NHS has set out the following guidelines on how to get cosmetic surgery through the NHS:
"To qualify for surgery on the NHS you must meet specific criteria as set out by your local health authority. The NHS will not pay for surgery for cosmetic reasons alone. Reconstructive and cosmetic surgery to correct, or improve, congenital abnormalities and injuries will usually be carried out free of charge.
NHS reconstructive surgery is performed by plastic surgeons who have had extensive training and belong to the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons. Surgeons who carry out cosmetic surgery through the NHS also belong to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.
To receive cosmetic surgery from the NHS, you will normally need a referral from your GP. You will have a consultation with a plastic surgeon and an assessment by a psychiatrist, or psychologist. It will then be decided whether there is enough social, psychological, or physical benefit to be gained to justify surgery."
Prices for a private breast lift operation can range from approximately £4,500 - £5,500.
A breast lift can improve your appearance and your self-confidence. It won’t, however, necessarily change you to look like your ideal woman, or cause other people to treat you differently.
Remember, also, that breast lifts do not last forever, and the effects of gravity and ageing will eventually take their toll again. Results may, however, last longer in women who also have implants alongside a breast lift.
The best candidates for mastopexy are physically and mentally healthy women who are realistic about what the surgery can accomplish. The best results are usually achieved in women with small, sagging breasts. Breasts of any size can be lifted, but the results may not last as long in heavy breasts.
Many women seek a breast lift because pregnancy and breast-feeding have left them with stretched skin and less shape in their breasts. However, if you're planning to have more children, it may be a good idea to postpone your breast lift until you have completed your family.
Before and After Pictures
Please note that results of cosmetic surgery vary enormously, depending upon both the patient and the skill of the individual surgeon, so outcomes for procedures will always be more variable than those for less invasive non-surgical treatments.
(All before and after photographs featured are real patients treated by highly experienced surgeons, your results may differ).
Before Breast Lift (left) and After Breast Lift (right)
Breast Lift Before and after pictures courtesy of Consultant Plastic Surgeon, Mr Christopher Inglefield, BSc, MBBS, FRCS (Plast) at London Bridge Plastic Surgery.