Multiple pregnancies, loss of skin elasticity due to aging, loss of breast volume and gravity are all factors that cause breasts to lose their shape and firmness. A breast lift, or mastopexy, is a procedure performed to elevate and reshape sagging breasts and reposition the nipples to a more desirable location. The procedure can also reduce the size of the areola, the darker skin surrounding the nipple. If you’re looking to lift and add volume, breast augmentation can also be performed at the same time. To learn more about the procedure in greater detail and the results you can expect, please schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Paul A. Watterson in Salt Lake City, UT
What is a Breast Lift?
Women come to Watterson Plastic Surgery with different breast needs and different expectations—and one of the first steps we take is to sit down with each patient to ensure they’re pursuing the correct treatment. For example, for women who want additional breast volume, the right procedure is breast augmentation. A breast lift doesn’t add volume; its purpose is to change the shape of the breast. Of course, many women pursue breast augmentation and a breast lift at the same time.
For women who pursue a breast lift, or mastopexy, there are different types to consider. Some women only require a slight lift with a minor incision; for other women, a more involved lift with a significant incision is required. Your plastic surgeon will consult with you on the type of breast lift that’s right for your needs.
How does a breast lift differ from breast augmentation?
Breast lift or mastopexy is very different from simple augmentation. Augmentation does not really lift the breast. That is a bit of a myth. Sure, the breast skin will be tighter with augmentation, but that can relax over a very short time. In fact, when an augmentation is done to lift the breast, you can usually count on a less than desirable outcome. It can lead to a very disappointing outcome.
There are a number of factors that go into a decision to lift a breast and even more factors that go into deciding whether to lift and augment at the same time. Stretch marks or striae, postpartum involution and decrease in breast size, and nipple position in relation to the breast are just a few. Most women understand the word “sagging” as it relates to their breasts and when I hear that in a consult before examining the patient, I can usually predict the patient will need a lift.
If a patient’s breast can hold a pencil in the inframammary fold that is another simple do at home test that can predict the need for a lift.
Usually, this is a very simple and easy decision, but occasionally there are borderline cases, and this again requires a consultation and discussion about expectations and outcomes so the appropriate decision can be made.
There are three basic types of breast lifts, the circumareolar (around the nipple areola), the lollipop or circumvertical, and lastly the anchor or (wise pattern) type. We can help you decide what is best for you.
It is very important to decide whether an implant should be used with a lift. A small or even a large implant will give “upper pole” fullness that is almost impossible to get any other way. Many women crave that upper pole fullness they used to have while breastfeeding or before children. This is why we often combine augmentation with a lift to achieve that look. Again, it is so important to team up with a skilled and experienced surgeon who can guide you in these decisions.
What to Expect from a Breast Lift
A breast lift is intended to accomplish three distinct goals:
- First, the breast itself is uplifted, reducing the overhang of the breast—allowing for the underside of the breast to be more visible.
- The nipple is elevated to a more central location on the breast mound, which visually enhances the shape of the breast.
- Finally, a breast lift restores upper fullness to the breast by moving the tissue upward.
These are all positive effects that can help women achieve the desired outcomes. With that said, many women also have concerns about breast surgery of any kind. One of the chief concerns is visible scarring. This is a natural anxiety for any woman to have as she considers a breast lift, and Dr. Watterson can best relieve that anxiety by showing real patient breast lift before and after photos—demonstrating how minimal scarring tends to be, and what it ultimately looks like over time.
Another common concern is recovery time. How long will it take the average patient to recover fully from a breast lift procedure? The procedure itself tends to take about two hours, and after that time the patient will spend about one hour in the recovery room. Following that, the patient returns home. There is minimal discomfort associated with a breast lift and it’s typically resolved in just a few days. From there, recovery is a simple matter of letting the body heal.
Ultimately, the patients who undergo a breast lift are content to accept the minor scarring and brief recovery time associated with the procedure, because what it accomplishes is something far more significant—rejuvenating the appearance of their breasts, and lessening the effects of pregnancy, weight loss, or simple aging.
How Do I Know if I need a Breast Lift?
Our goals at Watterson Plastic Surgery are to ensure that each client receives the outcome they desire, and also to maximize patient health and safety at every turn. As such, it’s important to us that we meet with each patient before their breast surgery, ensuring that they are a good candidate for the procedure.
One of the most common questions we get from our patients is whether the breast lift is really the right choice. The short answer: it depends on whether or not you are content with your breast volume and position. If your breasts are the size you want, but perhaps not the desired shape or in the right place, then a breast lift may be the right choice. For patients who are dissatisfied with their volume but their breasts are in the right place,we would more likely recommend breast augmentation.
As for the desired shape of the breast, most women want the nipple to be at the apex of the breast mound—right where the breast peaks or just slightly above. This places the nipple above the fold of the breast; for women whose nipples are already above the fold, a lift typically isn’t needed.
How long will my results last?
Breast lift surgery results are long lasting and durable and fortunately don’t require too many repeat surgeries. Augmentation with a breast lift is a challenging procedure but can be incredibly gratifying and long lasting.
Adjusting surgery to fit the patient makes for much more durable and lasting results. Considering height, weight, BMI, breast size, skin elasticity, activity levels and setting reasonable expectations make for the most satisfying and long-lasting results.
Getting Your Breasts Back
Many women approach us saying that they’ve had “the life sucked out of their breasts,” often through pregnancy or breastfeeding. Our surgeons can work with you to restore them to the youthful shape you desire.
Dr. Watterson has performed thousands of breasts lifts. There simply is no substitute for years of experience, judgement and skill. This coupled with staying current with new improvements and techniques ensure optimal patient outcomes. To speak with us more about whether a breast lift is right for you, contact us to schedule a consultation today.
How long is the recovery after breast lift surgery?
A breast lift alone is very well tolerated and usually without much post-operative pain. Breast lift with augmentation is obviously more surgery and because the breast implant stretches the pectoralis muscle it is more painful –very similar to breast discomfort with breast milk coming in.
Recovery is closely monitored. Patients can shower the next day. They can drive when off pain medication. They can go out to eat, or shop or watch a movie. However, in the first two weeks, care is taken to avoid heavy lifting (over ten lbs.), straining, and exercising. The exercise-of-choice is walking. After 4-6 weeks full and unlimited activity is permitted.
Your breasts will initially be swollen and high, but this will resolve in the first 2-6 weeks post op. Surgical changes along suture lines will smooth over 3 months and the incision lines will lighten and become less conspicuous over time. It is well to remember that scars take 8-12 months to fully mature. Therefore, I insist that my patients wear a bra and tape the incisions at least for 6 weeks. We like to encourage use of scar recovery gel which is clinically proven to be superior to other scar gel applications.
What risks are involved in a breast lift?
There is always risk associated with everything we do like driving our car or taking a walk. Thankfully, risks associated with elective cosmetic surgery are usually very low. Common to any surgery are risks such as infection, and bleeding and need for further surgery. Unique to breast lift procedures are risks such as loss of nipple sensation, or poor scarring, or risks associated with breast implants such as capsular contracture, or implant failure.
If a patient is healthy, not obese, does not smoke and is active, the risks are usually very low for elective cosmetic surgery and breast lifts specifically. Don’t be afraid to bring this topic up with your surgeon. Ask if the surgeon has had any such complications. The answer will be telling. All surgeons have complications, the key is how those are recognized and managed. Again, choose wisely a surgeon with a proven track record, and experience doing breast surgery and then have a frank discussion of any of your concerns.
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“I couldn’t be more pleased with my experience! I’m in zero pain, the swelling isn’t bad, and even right after surgery, my breasts look AMAZING! I highly recommend the doctors and team at Watterson Plastic Surgery – I promise you won’t be disappointed.”
LENGTH: 2-3 hours.
ANESTHESIA: General (asleep).
SIDE EFFECTS: Temporary bruising, swelling, discomfort, numbness and dry breast skin. Permanent scars.
RISKS: With any surgery, risks such as infection and blood clot exist. Our surgeons will always talk with you about potential risks specific to your procedures in your consultation. Other risks may include scarring, unevenly positioned nipples, permanent loss of feeling in nipples or breast.
RECOVERY: Back to work: one week or more. Strenuous activities: one month. Fading of scars: several months to a year.
DURATION OF RESULTS: Variable. Gravity, pregnancy, aging and weight changes may cause new sagging. In some patients, breast implants or other types of breast surgery may be placed in conjunction with a breast lift to enhance results.
See examples of our Dr. Watterson’s expert skills and our patient transformations