Breast Reduction Surgery

All women deserve to seek a high quality of life. For some of our patients, the size of their breasts cause physical and emotional side effects that make enjoying everyday life difficult. Women with very large breasts may experience back or shoulder pain, grooves on their shoulders from bra straps, difficulty exercising, and stress about clothing options. With breast reduction surgery, or mammoplasty, a patient may find relief from these physical and emotional symptoms.

How is breast reduction performed?

There are many variations in technique and your surgeon will work with you to determine the best approach based on the physical characteristics of your breast and desired results. At the University of Michigan Health System, breast reductions are most often performed as out-patient procedures using general anesthetic. The procedure typically takes 3 to 4 hours to perform, followed by a 2 to 3 hour recovery period in the hospital, after which patients complete their recovery at home through self-care .

Most often, a breast reduction involves three incisions. The first will circle around the areola, or the dark skin around the nipple. The second incision begins under the nipple and continues until the bottom of the breast. The final incision is along the breast crease, following the natural curve along the base of the breast. These incisions define the areas where the breast can be reduced in size by removing excess breast tissue, fat, and skin. It also allows surgeons to define a new location for the nipple. Once the excess skin, fat, and breast tissue have been removed, the nipple and areola will be placed in a higher position and the breast will be reshaped about them. The areola is typically reduced in size to complement the new, smaller breast size. Occasionally your surgeon may recommend combining breast reduction with liposuction to reach the best results, particularly if the sides of the breasts need to be reduced.

Video: Bilateral Breast Reduction

Is a breast reduction right for me?

If you feel your breast size is inhibiting a healthy lifestyle, breast reduction may help relieve your symptoms. Many patients choose breast reduction in order to achieve a greater sense of freedom in their physical activities, clothing styles, and to improve self-confidence. Additionally, some patients choose breast reduction to alleviate chronic pain, including neck, back, and shoulder pain. Reduction mammoplasty may also reduce headaches, shoulder-grooving from bra-straps, and may help alleviate upper extremity nerve problems due to posture problems.

It is important that any candidate for breast reduction surgery be in good health, with no active diseases or serious, pre-existing medical conditions. Because of interference with normal wound healing and other potential complications, the University of Michigan Health System does not currently take candidates for breast lifts who smoke. When preparing for your surgery, your care team will provide guidelines for eating, drinking and smoking as you approach your surgery date.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does breast reduction decrease chances of breast cancer?

Breast reduction does not change your chances of having breast cancer.

  • Do I need to lose weight before surgery?

Some women may need to lose weight before their breast reduction surgery. This will ensure the best possible outcomes from the procedure and recovery. Schedule a consultation to see what your surgeon recommends. 

  • What size can I expect my breasts to be after surgery?

Your surgeon will work with you to find a size that is both desirable to you and possible to achieve through breast reduction surgery. The surgical team will work to achieve results as close to this size as possible.

  • Will the nerves in my nipple be affected by surgery?

Some women experience temporary nipple numbness or hyper sensitivity after breast reduction surgery. When this happens, it typically lasts for 3 to 4 months. Occasionally women experience these symptoms for much longer.


At the University of Michigan Health System, we know every patient is unique and that setting expectations leads to a better outcome. Our surgeons work with patients to identify specific goals and results to reach for during a consultation. During the visit, you will have a chance to ask questions, decide the best course of surgery, and design your preparation and recovery. Based on this consultation, your surgeon will recommend the surgical technique best for you.

During this consultation, plan on providing a complete medical history. This includes any information about previous surgical procedures, medical conditions, and medications or supplements. Be prepared for a physical examination of your breast size and shape, including the quality of skin and location of the nipples. To support your confidential medical records, measurements and a photograph will be taken of your breasts before surgery. Finally, expect to discuss any possible risks and possible complications that can come from surgery.

Your Surgeons and Care Team

The plastic surgeons and care team members who perform breast reductions and help patients recover from the procedure are experts in their field. All of our surgeons are board-certified in plastic surgery and have years of experience in breast reconstruction surgeries. Many of our surgeons are also active in research around breast surgery to help make sure that women are happy with the outcomes of their surgery. Learn more about the team through the profiles below.

When you are ready for a consultation, call 734-998-6022 to schedule an appointment with one of our specialty plastic surgeons.