Mastopexy (breast uplift surgery)

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.

How can I know if breast uplift surgery is right for me?

Answer

Your surgeon's job is to tell you what surgery can do for you. However, only you can decide whether the operation is right for you.

Explanation

Don't rush into a decision to have cosmetic surgery. Discuss your options with your GP, who may be able to recommend a reputable surgeon (and/or how to find one) or give advice about how to choose which hospital to be treated in. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) and the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) provide a list of qualified cosmetic surgeons.

Before opting for breast uplift surgery, discuss with your surgeon what you're hoping to gain from the operation and the result you can realistically expect. Clearly explain to your surgeon what you think is wrong and what and how you want it changed. Only go ahead with the surgery if you're happy that your surgeon fully understands what you want, and you understand what the operation involves and how your breasts are likely to look afterwards.

There are risks associated with the procedure, such as excessive bleeding, infection and possible permanent changes in sensation and scarring. You need to consider these risks carefully when making your decision.

How much does breast uplift surgery cost?

Answer

Cosmetic surgery is rarely available on the NHS. You must have major physical or psychological reasons for having it to be considered. The cost of breast uplift surgery can vary from around £3,000 to £6,000.

Explanation

The package usually covers all the costs of your treatment, such as hospital charges, surgeon's and anaesthetist's fees, and follow-up consultation. The costs vary from surgeon to surgeon and clinic to clinic. You will usually be given a fixed price after your initial consultation with a cosmetic surgeon.

Never base your decision on costs alone when deciding where to be treated. It’s important to always consider the quality of your surgeon and the hospital or clinic when making your decision.

Is it possible to breastfeed after breast uplift surgery?

Answer

Having breast uplift surgery doesn’t usually affect your ability to breastfeed but it can do if your nipples are re-positioned during breast uplift surgery.

Explanation

It's important to consider if you might want to breastfeed in the future when making your decision about whether to go ahead with breast uplift or a breast reduction operation. You may not be able to breastfeed after the surgery if the procedure involves re-positioning your nipples. This is because your nipples may need to be separated from your milk ducts to re-position them.

If you're considering breastfeeding in the future, ask your surgeon about techniques where the nipples are left connected (even partially) to the milk ducts.

Are the results of breast uplift permanent or will I need top-up surgery in the future?

Answer

Your breasts may increase in size and droop if you put on weight or become pregnant after having breast uplift surgery. Your breasts may also change shape with age.

Explanation

Your breast size alters with body weight so if you gain weight your breasts will change shape. Your breasts may also increase in size if you become pregnant. Before you opt to have breast uplift surgery, discuss with your surgeon how weight gain or a pregnancy may affect the shape of your breasts. Some surgeons recommend waiting until after you have had children before going ahead with breast uplift or breast reduction surgery.

Breasts will inevitably droop again in the future. To help maintain the shape and appearance of your breasts and delay signs of ageing, maintain a steady weight and wear a suitable bra to provide support.