Breast reduction surgery is a very common procedure. According to the American Board of Plastic Surgeons, there are more than 90,000 breast reduction procedures performed each year. In my practice, 96 breast reductions were performed in Jackson County last year.
Breast reduction surgery has one of the highest patient satisfaction rates for elective surgical procedures. Multiple studies and online surveys have confirmed this fact. One of the questions that I ask breast reduction patients at their three month appointment is, “Are you glad you had this done?” Of the 96 patients that I performed breast reductions on last year, I cannot remember any negative responses. They all confirmed enthusiastically that it was a positive experience and result.
With such a high patient satisfaction rate you might think that breast reduction surgery has a low complication rate. While it is true that life threatening complications from breast reduction are very low, local complications such as wound healing problems are actually much higher than the other surgeries I perform. The reason for this is simple: blood supply. The breast is composed of mostly fatty tissue and therefore does not have a dense blood supply. This blood supply is reduced even further when blood vessels are cut during the surgery; and lastly, tissue needs more blood and oxygen to heal than simply exist. For this reason, I require all of my patients to be non-smokers at the time of surgery. Most patients are motivated enough to have this surgery that they are willing to quit smoking even if they have been long time smokers.
Breast reduction surgery is done most often in an outpatient setting. Most of my patients can go back to sedentary work in a week. At one month, I remove all restrictions including activities such as vigorous exercise.
While this surgery places scars on the breast, cosmetically, there is improvement. During the reduction surgery a lift is performed as well. Breast ptosis occurs with breast hypertrophy, by making the breast smaller and higher a cosmetic improvement is gained. This, along with removal of neck and back pain, contributes to the high patient satisfaction.
Breast reductions are often performed during the teenage years. The youngest patient that I have performed a breast reduction on was 14. I will never forget her mother telling me two weeks after her surgery, “Thank you for giving my daughter back.” She described how her daughter was a very good athlete and stopped all sports. She stopped socializing, especially during the summer time when kids are often involved in water activities and in a bathing suit. She even wore a jacket during the summer. We all know how important body image is during the teenage years and you can imagine how a young girl would react to teasing from her peers.
The vast majority of breast reductions are covered by insurance. Most insurance requires preauthorization. This requires a letter written to the insurance company stating the symptoms that the patient’s large breasts are causing, the fact that conservative measures such as wearing supporting garments have failed, and how much weight is to be removed from each breast. The amount of weight to be removed has recently been standardized and follows a scale based on body mass index. When I first started practice in 2003, most insurance simply stated a weight that was the same for every patient regardless of their height and weight. This, of course, made it much harder for smaller women to qualify for insurance requirements. Fortunately, this is not the case now, and insurance requires smaller weights to be removed for women with a smaller body mass index. Of the women referred to me, over 95% are approved for breast reduction surgery by their insurance.
I would encourage you to mention some of these seven facts to patients that you treat that you feel would benefit from breast reduction surgery.
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