Contrary to popular belief, breast reduction is not always a vanity procedure. In fact, studies conducted in different parts of the world have suggested that overly endowed women who have had the procedure reported improved quality of life. Some researchers even went further by saying that it could increase the patients’ life expectancy by up to five years.
To further shed light on the issue, celebrity Los Angeles plastic surgeon Dr. Tarick Smiley explains the surprising health benefits of breast reduction that are backed by science.
Before and after photos of breast reduction patient
A 2007 study conducted in US has shown that patients reported improved quality of life following surgery, which has given them relief from the debilitating effects of over-large breasts such as spinal curvature (which may lead to disc or nerve damage), postural problem, rounded shoulders, painful bra strap grooves, neck pain, lower back pain, skin breakdown, and decrease in physical performance.
- Possible increase in life expectancy
In 2008, Scandinavian researchers have estimated that the cumulative damage caused by overlarge breasts may shorten a woman’s life by five years on average. They argue that because of nerve damage, physical discomfort that force some women to rely on daily use of painkillers, and difficulty to exercise that leads to higher BMI, women who are overly endowed face more health issues after factoring in other variables.
- Smaller breasts allow women to increase their physical activities.
Several studies have shown that after breast reduction surgery a good number of patients lost weight naturally possibly due to inadvertent increase in their physical activities, as they no longer experience the disabling pain and discomfort.
However, it is a common practice among health insurance companies to require patients to be near their ideal weight before they agree to cover the surgery’s cost. This may seem like a paradox (or a haphazard requirement) since overlarge breasts can make it exceptionally difficult to keep a normal weight due to limited physical activities.
Male chest reduction surgery corrects the woman-like breasts generally caused by excess fibrous tissue and fats of varying amounts. All efforts are made to conceal the scars by placing them at the edge of areola, allowing them to blend into the background once fully healed.
Leading Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Tarick Smiley has recently posted a series of videos on Snapchat showing a patient with overdeveloped breasts that looked incongruous with his athletic physique.
Notice that the “after” photo of the breast profile looks more masculine and flatter.
Dr. Smiley started the procedure with tumescent liposuction in which a flexible hollowed tube was used to remove the excess fat. But prior to fat extraction, he injected the breasts with tumescent fluids so the fatty cells would swell thus paving way for quicker and gentler removal.
The tumescent liposuction technique is also known to promote smoother results.
A thin liposuction cannula was inserted into a tiny wound puncture that was positioned at the lower border of the areola to hide the scar. After removing the excess fat, Dr. Smiley extended the incision to perform the excision-based aspect of the surgery.
In the video, Dr. Smiley said the patient required the excision-based surgery because a liposuction-alone approach cannot remove the fibrous [breast] tissue.
Thin liposuction cannula is used to remove fats in smaller, more accurate bits.
In addition to liposuction, the patient also requires excision to remove the fibrous breast tissue.
“The fibrous tissue will not come out with liposuction or even exercise,” he said in the video.
After removing the excess fat and breast tissue, Dr. Smiley closed the wound in deep rows without “picking up the skin.”
“The trick between a perfect wound closure and an okay one is the use of deep sutures. The idea is to suture the dermis, which is the deeper layer of the skin, without including the actual skin surface whose edges are simply allowed to kiss each other. We should always respect the skin,” he further explained.
With very minimal tension on the skin, Dr. Smiley said the incision tends to heal quicker and the scar fades better into the background.
Breast reduction consultation will play a critical role in patient satisfaction. This gives the patient the opportunity to describe her goals in precise detail, express her concerns, and assess the qualifications of her doctor.
On the other hand, breast reduction consultation allows the surgeon to explain the benefits, limitations, and potential risks of the surgery. Nonetheless, he must be able to allay the concerns of his patients by describing the preparation guidelines, surgical techniques, medications, and postop care that will reduce if not eliminate risk of complications.
A good surgeon will make every effort to create a relaxed atmosphere, making it easier for his patients to express their goals, concerns, and medical history.
Oftentimes, the initial breast reduction consultation lasts 45 minutes to an hour, allowing the surgeon to listen to his patient’s input, goals, expectations, and medical information, particularly relating to current medications, family history, previous surgery, and medical condition, if there is any.
Afterwards, the surgeon may proceed with breast examination to determine its dimension, shape, nipple position, and skin quality, which will all determine the “best” incision pattern. To some extent these anatomical details will also dictate the final results and so the right patient should have realistic goals and expectations.
Then, the surgeon or his staff will take photographs of the breasts. This is particularly important when the patient is seeking insurance coverage. (Note: Many insurance issuers in Los Angeles plastic surgery require at least 500 gram of breast tissue removed from each side of the breast before they pay the surgery’s cost.)
It is not uncommon for patients to feel uncomfortable during breast exam. However, a good plastic surgeon will make every effort to create a more relaxed atmosphere.
The breast exam will allow the surgeon to determine the most helpful incision pattern. In general, patients with overlarge, pendulous breasts will need the standard anchor technique in which the scar goes around the areola, down to the midline, and across the base.
The anchor breast reduction is aptly called this way due to the resulting shape of its scar—i.e., like a nautical anchor. Over time, the scar is expected to fade into the background that most patients are not bothered by its appearance after 1-2 years.
Most surgeons will show the before-and-after photos of their actual patients to would-be patients to help the latter set realistic goals and to further improve the discussion.
At the end of consultation, surgeons typically provide a written material about breast reduction and possibly all the costs involved in the surgery.
Should the patient decide to go ahead with the surgery, a second consultation is scheduled so her doctor can tell her what medications to avoid and the lifestyle changes she needs to adopt to avoid or at least minimize risk of complications. Lab screening is also required to ensure that she is physically fit for the surgery.
Major breast reduction surgery is a technically complex procedure since the goal is not just to downsize the breast in order to provide immediate relief from neck and back pain, constant skin irritation, and other physical symptoms. Most patients are also concerned about getting a perkier, natural-looking breast contour.
However, the more breast tissue and skin excised during surgery, the more difficult it is to achieve a good shape and projection. Furthermore, the risk of poor healing and other complications increases as well, says leading Los Angeles plastic surgeon Dr. Tarick Smiley.
Nonetheless, great results from major breast reduction surgeries can be achieved with meticulous dissection and deep understanding of the anatomy, he says in his recent Snapchat posts.
He has shown a female patient with hugely disproportionate breasts that hung too low, drooping over her tummy area.
Aside from the disproportionate appearance, prior to surgery the patient also complained that her overlarge breasts were causing “rounded” and painful shoulder, back pain, skin breakdown, and discomfort when doing exercise and other physical activities.
(Note: Because a good number of breast reduction patients have physical symptoms, it is not surprising that the surgery has one of the highest patient satisfaction rates among plastic surgery procedures. According to a 2012 survey released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, about 90 percent of patients rated their results “good” or “very good.”)
Dr. Smiley says major breast reduction requires the standard or anchor technique, which is named after the shape of its resulting scar. It uses an incision around the areola, which goes down the midline, and then across the bottom of the breast.
A modified form of breast reduction eliminates the horizontal incision across the bottom of the breast; hence, the resulting scar resembles a lollipop. This technique is referred to as lollipop or vertical reduction, says the celebrity plastic surgeon.
The patient required the anchor breast reduction technique, which has allowed for the removal of more than 600 grams of breast tissue on each side.
Meanwhile, the lollipop breast lift only suits patients who require smaller reductions, between 300 and 500 grams of breast tissue on each side.
One of the main issues with major breast reduction is the scar appearance, particularly the vertical scar because of its more obvious location (the scars around the areola and within the submammary fold are more discreet). But with meticulous wound suturing technique, Dr. Smiley says most patients can expect “almost invisible” or “very faded” scar after 6-18 months.
He highlights the importance of closing the incisions in several layers, while just allowing the skin to “kiss each other” instead of closing their edges with stitches. The idea is to eliminate tension on skin, which promotes favorable scars and good healing, he says.
Breast reduction to fix asymmetry is a highly complex procedure. Contrary to popular belief, the lopsidedness is not only caused by the size disparity between the two sides; several factors also come into play like the nipple size and position, difference in the projection of each breast—even the shape of the chest wall may also contribute to the condition.
Leading Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Tarick Smiley says every woman has uneven breasts; however, it only becomes problematic when the lopsided appearance prevents someone from wearing a swimwear without feeling too conscious, or tries to hide it by changing the way she dresses (e.g., using pad only on one side).
Dr. Smiley says that no patient should expect perfect symmetry after breast reduction or any other forms of breast enhancement surgery, although a good surgeon will make every effort to make each breast quite similar to each other.
The celebrity plastic surgeon says that breast reduction to fix asymmetry may involve just the larger breast—reshaping and reducing its size to make it more symmetric with the other side.
However, one caveat of leaving the other breast “untouched” is that it will not behave the same way as the surgically enhanced side, warns Dr. Smiley.
To achieve a good level of symmetry that can persist long term (both sides will “mature” and “behave” quite similar), Dr. Smiley says that breast reduction or any form of breast surgery should ideally involve both sides.
With breast reduction, whether or not there is a notable size difference between the two breasts, Dr. Smiley says the vast majority of patients will also require some type of mastopexy, or breast lift in layman’s term.
Breast lift and breast reduction share the same incision sites and thus additional scars are not an issue.
Breast lift not just repositions the downward pointing nipple; it also raises and reshapes the breast tissue with the use of internal sutures, explains Dr. Smiley.
To further improve symmetry, Dr. Smiley says he uses a device that resembles a cookie cutter to delineate the new smaller areola. He also ensures that the scar goes precisely at the dark-light skin junction so it blends well into the background.
Drastic breast reduction surgery is performed not solely for aesthetic reasons, but to improve the patient’s quality of life, said leading Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Tarick Smiley.
Dr. Smiley has recently demonstrated drastic breast reduction surgery on his Snapchat account. The female patient shown in the video complained about the chronic back pain, postural problem, and shoulder discomfort due to the extra weight of her large, pendulous breasts.
The left photo shows the result of drastic breast reduction surgery.
In the video, Dr. Smiley has explained the challenges of drastic breast reduction, particularly relating to increased bleeding and loss of nipple sensation. However, the risks can be avoided or at least minimized with meticulous dissection and deep understanding of the breast anatomy, he added.
Dr. Smiley said that large, pendulous breasts have longer blood supply originating from the muscle and therefore there is an increased risk of excessive bleeding and nipple areola loss.
“Nipple areola loss occurs when its skin literally dies,” he said, adding that one way to avoid this complication is to perform free nipple graft in which it is removed entirely from its stalk (main blood supply) and later grafted back into its place after eliminating some of the breast tissue and skin to reduce the “cup size.”
The right breast looks significantly smaller and perkier versus the “untreated” left side.
But even the free nipple graft has its own caveat, Dr. Smiley has warned.
“We try to avoid the free nipple graft because it typically causes loss of sensation in the areola. Hence, we only decide if this is warranted during the operation and I will try to avoid it as much as possible,” he said.
During the operation, Dr. Smiley decided not to perform the free nipple graft; hence the areolar complex has remained attached to its stalk or main blood supply. Nonetheless, he was able to lift the drooping nipple by 20 cm from its previous location.
He also reduced the areola so it will look proportionate to the new, smaller breast size.
Meanwhile, Dr. Smiley has ensured that the scar goes precisely around the areola’s border and parallel to the breast fold for optimal scar concealment.
And while the vertical scar between the nipple area and the breast fold is in a more obvious location, Dr. Smiley said it is expected to fade into the background after 6-12 months.