Breast lift surgery is known in the plastic surgery arena as a mastopexy. It involves the removal of excess skin and the moving of the nipple up to a higher location, thereby literally lifting the breast up and restoring a youthful appearance.
Ptosis is the falling forward and sagging of the breast or a prolapsing of the mammary gland tissues. Young women with very heavy breasts are more prone to mammary prolapse due to the volume and weight of a disproportionately large bust line combined with the elasticity and thinness of young skin. These issues are especially problematic for post-pregnancy, middle-aged women due to milk-gland atrophy and stretched skin from engorgement, age, gravity and weight gain and loss. A surgeon determines the degree of ptosis (mammary gland prolapse) using the modified Regnault ptosis grade scale. The scale determines the extend of the ptosis by considering how far below the inframammary fold (IMF) the nipple is and whether or not there is breast tissue handing even further below the nipple or not.
For example, Grade 1 ptosis is only mild, with the nipple located below the IMF but above a substantial portion of breast tissue. Grade 3; however, is severe ptosis, with the nipple far below the IMF and no lower breast tissue below the nipple whatsoever. Outside of that, the surgeon considers his client’s psychological condition and whether or not she has a realistic understanding of what mastopexy can do for her.
There are relatively few contraindications for breast lift surgery. Among them are: smoking, diabetes and obesity. These particular contraindications are specific to mastopexy, as they can be associated with nipple necrosis. Pregnancy or the intention to become pregnant in the future may also be a contraindication due to the changes of the breast inherent with pregnancy and post-partum. Other contraindications for breast lift surgery are the same as with any other surgery: poor overall health or medication or medical conditions that make surgery too high risk for a non-life saving surgical procedure (such as blood thinning medication or poor heart health).
There are two basic options when it comes to breast lift surgery: A full breast lift and a modified breast lift.
Full Breast Lift: This procedure involves three incisions; one around the areola, a vertical incision between the areola and the base of the breast and an incision along the base of the breast, at the inframammary fold (the combination of the latter two are often referred to as an "anchor incision" or an "inverted T incision"). The technique removes excess skin, elevates the breast and in many cases, reduces the size of the areola (as it often stretches due to ptosis). Full breast lift allows the maximum access to the breast tissue, consistently producing the desires breast shape and placement on the chest wall and, as such, is the most widely used technique for mastopexy.
Modified breast lift: This technique was developed to produce similar affects to the breast shape and location on the torso as a full breast lift but with fewer obvious scars. It is potentially limited, however, due to the fact that the surgeon can effect fewer changes to the breasts shape. This general technique actually encompasses four variants:
About 24 hours after surgery, you will be encouraged to get out of bed and move around a bit, for short periods of time. After several days, most women can move about relatively comfortably. Sleeping on your back is recommended, in order to avoid pressure on the breasts, though it’s unlikely anyone will need to encourage you to do otherwise. Straining, lifting or bending must be avoided as it can cause an increase in swelling or bleeding as well as pain. A few days after surgery, any drains will be removed and fresh dressing will be applied or removed, depending on the surgeon’s feelings about the healing process. The surgeon may instruct you to wear a support bra for a few weeks and generally, stitches are removed in stages, over the course of three weeks, beginning about a week after surgery. Most women are able to return to work as early as a week after surgery. Whether or not that will be true for you will largely depend on what you do for a living. If your job involves lots of bending, straining or heavy lifting, you will need to either be allowed to modify your responsibilities or you’ll need more time off. Some mild exercise is allowed after several weeks but keep in close contact with your doctor to be sure that you’re able to, based upon your own body’s healing rate. Sexual activity should be avoided for at least one to two weeks, though your surgeon may recommend longer. Mild, periodic discomfort is normal, even after several weeks, however any severe pain should be immediately reported to your doctor. The same is true for fevers, chills or hot and obviously infected looking incisions.
The results of a breast lift can be expected to be fairly long lasting. Unless you gain or lose a significant amount of weight, the size and shape of your breasts should remain fairly constant. Please keep in mind, though, that modern plastic surgery cannot wholly halt the advance of years upon your body. Gravity and age will eventually win out on virtually every woman’s breasts. It is possible to undergo the lift again, however, and for such reasons you may wish to maintain a good relationship with your physician.