A breast lift (also known as mastopexy) is a cosmetic surgery procedure that lifts and reshapes sagging or drooping breasts. Its aim is to change the shape and contour of the breasts, not to alter their size. A breast augmentation is a procedure that is done specifically to enlarge the breasts. Depending upon the characteristics and preferences of the patient, these two types of breast surgery can be performed alone or combined into a single procedure.
Good candidates for a breast lift include women with pendulous breasts that are neither too large nor too small, women whose breasts are sagging or drooping, and those with nipples that are positioned low and point downward. Frequently these conditions are inherited, but they also can result from pregnancy (especially multiple pregnancies), breastfeeding, and changes associated with aging.
Asymmetry of the breasts (where one breast differs significantly from the other in position, size, and/or firmness) also can be addressed with a breast lift, provided the discrepancy in breast size is not too great. If there is a significant difference in size, the best results will be obtained by combining the breast lift with an augmentation or reduction procedure.
A breast lift can be performed on healthy patients of any age, but in very young women it is best to wait until the breasts are fully developed. Some women choose to delay breast lift surgery until after they have completed child-bearing, but it isn’t necessary to do so. The breast lift procedure leaves the nipples and milk ducts intact, so it typically does not affect the patient’s ability to breast-feed. However, patients who plan to breast-feed should discuss this concern with their surgeon during the initial consultation.
When performing a breast lift, the cosmetic surgeon raises the nipple and areola to a higher position and removes any excess skin from the lower part of the breast, suturing the skin into place. The skin tightens as it heals, resulting in a breast that sits higher and has a more attractive shape.
In breast lift procedures that are combined with breast augmentation, the surgeon creates a pocket either under the breast tissue or behind the chest muscle wall and then inserts an implant into the pocket. When implants are used, the surgeon typically leaves a little more skin intact to accommodate the enlarged breast.
A breast lift alone will not alter the size or firmness of breasts. For patients with breasts that lack firmness, an advantage of combining a breast lift with breast augmentation is that the implants will significantly increase breast firmness.
Breast lift procedures generally achieve the best results in women with small to medium-sized breasts. Large, heavy breasts also can be lifted, but the results tend to be less long-lasting than breast lift procedures performed on smaller breasts.
Patients considering breast enhancement surgery should consult a plastic or cosmetic surgeon to determine which procedure(s) is most appropriate for them.