Breast reduction surgery: cost, insurance, before and after

  • There are a variety of cosmetic and medical reasons why someone may seek breast reduction.
  • If you’re considering this, you’re probably wondering how much the surgery costs, how the scar heals, and how long recovery takes.
  • Two board certified plastic surgeons answer all your breast reduction questions.

Whether you’re interested in breast reduction for aesthetic reasons or because you’re experiencing some discomfort, it can be a life-changing surgery. The procedure is performed on people of all ages, starting at 18 – but you can get it younger with parental consent. If you don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place.

Just as with breast augmentation, there are a number of reasons why breast reduction surgery may be right for you. “Common cosmetic reasons why a patient may choose to undergo breast reduction surgery are that they feel their breasts are too large and do not suit their figure, they are not worried about them, or they want to feel more confident in your clothing,” Smita Ramanadham, MD, FACS, a board-certified plastic surgeon, tells POPSUGAR. “Some may even find it difficult to exercise or participate in sports because of the size of their breasts.”

On the other hand, there are also medically necessary reasons for breast reduction. “[It] can help resolve back, neck, [and] shoulder problems the patient may be experiencing, such as pain, discomfort, shoulder girdling, and muscle spasm in the neck and trapezius muscles,” says Dr. Jennifer Walden, board-certified plastic surgeon and president of The Aesthetic Society.

Whatever your reasoning, we have the answers to all the most common questions about the procedure. From how much breast reduction surgery costs (and whether or not it’s covered by insurance) to what you can expect during and after surgery, read on to get some insight from two plastic surgeons.

Prerequisites for breast reduction surgery

As with all plastic surgery procedures, your breast reduction will begin with a consultation. This pre-meeting covers whether you are a good candidate for the surgery from a health perspective and whether the surgery is right for you overall. “The preoperative visit facilitates lab work and other prerequisites that may be necessary to ensure patients are in optimal health with the lowest risk of complications,” Dr. Walden.

It is generally recommended that you are over the age of 18 and have not had breast growth for at least six months. “They may ask about medication use and smoking history,” says Dr. Smita. “They will also assess your risk of breast cancer and may require a mammogram based on those risk factors.”

If you are cleared for surgery, this is when the doctor will take preliminary pictures, provide a cost estimate and help you schedule it.

Breast reduction surgery costs

Like any plastic or cosmetic procedure, the cost of breast reduction varies depending on where you are geographically and your particular surgeon. This also depends on whether your surgery is covered by insurance (more on that below). If you’re paying for your breast reduction without insurance, you can expect to pay a total of about $6,000, which is the reported average cost, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Is breast reduction surgery covered by insurance?

As we discussed earlier, there are two different categories of arguments for seeking breast reduction: cosmetic and medical. If you are seeking surgery for cosmetic reasons, unfortunately insurance will not cover it. A medically necessary procedure, on the other hand, may qualify — but the process isn’t easy.

“However, if you have symptoms from your large breasts and are trying to get through insurance, it’s best to start the process with your primary care physician or OB-GYN,” says Dr. Smita. “They can best treat your symptoms, and if no improvement is achieved, an evaluation by a plastic surgeon is recommended.”

If you are trying to get insurance coverage for this procedure, you will need to meet certain criteria and have a documented medical history of breast-related illnesses. However, Dr. Walden says it used to be a little easier to get through insurance for a medical breast reduction, but that’s no longer the case. “Historically, breast reduction procedures, particularly those requiring the removal of up to one to two kilograms of tissue from each breast, have been covered by insurance with the appropriate medical documentation provided,” she says. However, many third-party companies now refuse to do so.

Risks of breast reduction surgery

As with any plastic surgery, there are several risks associated with breast reduction. This includes your usual post-operative bruising and scarring, as well as infection and wound healing complications related to the lack of blood supply to the area. Additionally, Dr. Smita lists that “the main risks include asymmetry, loss of nipple sensation, loss of nipple, [and] inability to breastfeed.” Smokers experience an increased risk of these complications. If you are concerned about any of the aforementioned dangers, you should discuss them with your surgeon in time.

What to expect during breast reduction surgery

During your first or second appointment with your doctor, you will review your desired end result. “During a consultation for breast reduction surgery, your surgeon will ask about your goals for surgery, including an ideal new size,” says Dr. Smita.

On the day of surgery, you should prepare to stay in the hospital or surgery center for about six hours. Once you’re prepped for surgery and your doctor has reviewed your surgery plan with you, you’ll be under anesthesia and your plastic surgeon will get to work.

“After the procedure, it usually takes an hour for patient recovery from anesthesia and instructions for caregivers,” says Dr. Walden. “They wake up in a bra or bandage with post-op instructions.” (More on those specific instructions later.)

Breast reduction surgery before and after

Recovery from breast reduction surgery

Instructions after breast reduction surgery are similar to other breast procedures. “This surgery is usually very well tolerated with minimal pain or discomfort,” says Dr. Smita. “While patients are sent home with pain medications, most patients will stop using them in the first few days after surgery.”

You may be sent home after breast reduction surgery with drains to “gently relieve you of excess post-operative fluid and sutures/surgical glue that will need to be removed between week one and two, usually,” says Dr. r Walden.

It is recommended that you take two weeks off work after surgery and for the first four to six weeks you should limit your activity. “Avoid overuse [your] arms, vigorous exercise, weight lifting, and swimming or bathing in water,” says Dr. Walden. Walking, however, is immediately encouraged.

You won’t be able to wear underwire bras for the first six weeks — instead, you’ll be given a special post-op bra that fastens up the front. At week six, you will return for a follow-up appointment. “Six months and even more, a year after surgery is when the final results are best seen,” says Dr. Walden.

Breast reduction scars

Your breast reduction surgery will leave you with a small scar that looks like an anchor. “They are present around the areolas, extending vertically down the breast mound and ending in the inframammary fold below the breast,” says Dr. Walden. “The way incisions heal and the texture and color of the scar is based on the healing’s own genetics and skin type, and scars take a good 12 to 18 months to fully fade, level out and mature.”

These scars are permanent, but you can improve the appearance of your surgical scars by using products to help fade them during the healing process. “If indicated by a thickened or discolored scar, we employ the use of microneedles, professional laser, broadband light, pigment lightening creams, steroid injections, [and] silicone compression bands,” says Dr. Walden, but usually your body just needs time.

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