Breast Reduction – is it riskier than Breast Enlargement?
A total of 4,680 women underwent breast reduction surgery in the UK last year – up 11% on the previous year.
It’s a procedure that’s becoming increasingly popular, and is now the 4th most common cosmetic operation among women in the UK.
But how does breast reduction compare with the undisputed queen of cosmetic surgery procedures, breast enlargement?
It’s fair to say breast reduction is more invasive, but does it carry more risks? If you’re considering surgery, read on as we look at the two side by side.
Breast reduction and breast enlargement – the risks they share
Any cosmetic surgery procedure, just like any surgery, has risks. Perhaps the biggest, which applies to both breast enlargement and breast reduction, is permanent scarring.
Breast reduction surgery, because it involves removing and reshaping of breast tissue, always leaves visible scars. The degree of scarring will vary from person to person, and with the type of incision used.
The most common type of scarring after breast reduction is the ‘lollipop’ scar, which runs vertically from the base of the breast up to the areola.
With breast enlargement, scarring is usually easier to conceal. In most cases, the scars will be hidden at the base of the breasts in the natural fold.
Some surgeons, including our own Adrian Richards, also offer peri-areolar breast enlargement, in which the implants are inserted through a circular incision around the areolas.
The resulting circular scars are subtle, and can be further improved using cosmetic tattooing once they’ve faded to white. Although red and swollen at first, scarring from both procedures will typically fade and become far less noticeable over time.
Other less common risks that apply equally to both procedures include asymmetry, changes in nipple or breast sensation, redness, bruising, inflammation, infection and trouble breastfeeding.
Specific risks of breast reduction
As for risks that apply only to breast reduction, these are very rare. Occasionally, the blood supply to the breast may be damaged during surgery, which can result in delayed wound healing.
This risk increases with the amount of breast tissue removed, though it isn’t clear that women with a higher BMI are at greater risk of complications.
In even rarer cases, poor wound healing can lead to the loss of part or all of the nipple and areola, but this is extremely uncommon.
Specific risks of breast enlargement
These include capsular contracture, where the body creates a protective ‘shell’ of scar tissue around the implant. This gradually shrinks, squeezing the implant to make it hard and painful. This is one of the more common complications with breast enlargement, but it’s treatable with further surgery.
Rupture is another risk specific to breast enlargement. This is when the implant’s casing splits, which can be caused by the passage of time, through damage during the operation, or after a breast injury.
It’s not always possible to tell if a breast implant has ruptured, but signs can include lumpiness, swelling, redness and tenderness in the breast.
When implants were first developed, they had thin walls and rupturing was a common problem. However, with the exception of the substandard PIP implants used by some clinics a few years ago, modern implants used in the UK since the 1990s are much stronger and rupture much less frequently. If an implant does rupture, it is recommended to have it replaced with a new one.
Other risks can include gel bleed, and rippling of the implants under the skin.
To sum up
It’s difficult to paint one procedure as riskier than the other. While the complications associated with breast reduction can be more serious owing to the nature of the surgery, the more minor complications associated with breast enlargement tend to occur a little more often.
For both, as long as you’ve done plenty of research and chosen a reputable surgeon and clinic, the risks are rare.
Even if you are unlucky and problems do occur, if you’re in good hands your safety should be assured, and any resulting issues can be treated.
For more information on breast reduction, or to book a consultation with one of our expert surgeons, please contact us on 01324 578290 or email mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.