Breast Reduction Surgery (Mammoplasty) | MedStar Health

Breast reduction, also called reduction mammoplasty, helps you achieve a breast size that’s proportional to your body by removing excess breast fat, tissue, and skin. For women who suffer from significant discomfort due to large breasts, the procedure can help alleviate pain, irritation, and self-consciousness while reshaping the breasts and providing a more youthful appearance.

The specific technique used will depend on your current breast size and composition and amount of reduction desired. In some cases, a breast reduction can be performed using liposuction alone. Your doctor will help you understand your options and recommend the approach that will best help you achieve your desired size and shape.

Planning and recovery

What to expect

You and your doctor will discuss in detail the size, shape, and technique that’s best suited to your body.

On the day of the procedure, anesthesia will be administered through an IV. Your doctor will then make an incision along the edge of the areola, and possibly vertically down to the breast crease or in an anchor-shaped pattern, depending on the approach you had discussed.

After the incision is made, your nipple will be repositioned. In most cases, it will remain tethered to the breast. For some women, the nipple and areola may need to be removed and transplanted higher on the breast. Your areola may be reduced by removing excess skin. Then, underlying breast tissue will be removed, lifted, and shaped.

After the new breast size and shape have been created, the incisions will be closed, first with dissolvable sutures within the breast tissue, and then using sutures, adhesives, or surgical tape to close the skin.

Recovery after breast reduction surgery

After the procedure, your breasts will be wrapped in gauze with a support garment to help minimize swelling and support your breasts during the healing process. A small tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain excess blood or fluid.

You’ll typically return home on the day of surgery with instructions from your doctor. At home, you’ll wear your support garment and take any prescribed medications for pain and to prevent infection. Your doctor will advise you to rest and avoid strenuous activity to prevent bleeding and pain. You may need additional help during the first few days after surgery, as you likely won’t have the full range of motion in your chest and shoulders.

While many women feel ready to return to work or daily activities after 1 week, you’ll have soreness and swelling for a few weeks after surgery. Your doctor will advise you about when to resume exercise likely around 3 or 4 weeks after surgery. It’s important to follow these instructions even if you feel up to doing more, to prevent complications. Scars from the incisions, while permanent, will fade over time and will be hidden as much as possible.

Our locations

Distance from Change locationEnter your location

MedStar Health: Plastic Surgery at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

3800 Reservoir Road NW,
BLES Building
1st. Floor
Washington, D.C., 20007


MedStar Health: Plastic Surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center

106 Irving St. NW
POB North
Ste. 3400
Washington, D.C., 20010

MedStar Health: Plastic Surgery at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

9105 Franklin Square Drive
Suite 214
Rosedale, MD 21237


MedStar Health: Plastic Surgery at McLean

6862 Elm Street
Suite 800
McLean, VA 22101


Frequently asked questions

  • Am I a candidate for breast reduction?

    You may be a good candidate if:

    • You’re physically healthy
    • You’re not pregnant or breastfeeding
    • Your expectations are realistic
    • You understand the risks that come along with surgery
    • You’re bothered by feeling that your breasts are too large
    • Your breasts limit your physical activity
    • The weight of your breasts causes back, neck, or shoulder pain
    • You have shoulder indentations from bra straps or skin irritation beneath your breast crease
  • How much does a breast reduction cost?

    The costs for breast reduction vary based on the type of procedure and your specific needs. Many insurance plans cover breast reduction. Whether coverage is available will depend on your specific insurance plan and determination of medical necessity.

    When you come in for your consultation visit, we’ll be able to discuss fees, insurance paperwork required, and financing options in detail with you.

  • Is it covered by insurance?

    In some cases, breast reduction is covered by insurance when medically necessary. It’s recommended to ask your insurance carrier about whether coverage is available in your specific plan.

    If coverage may be available, our staff will help you with any preauthorization paperwork required by your insurance carrier.

  • Will the results of breast reduction last?

    You’ll enjoy smaller, lighter breasts for the rest of your life, so long as you maintain a stable weight. Weight changes and pregnancy can change the size and shape of your breasts.

    Additionally, a breast reduction does not stop the aging process. Over time, your breasts will likely begin to sag again, although not as severely as you might have experienced without a breast reduction surgery.

  • Do I need a referral to your office?

    If you’re exploring options for insurance coverage, you may need to request a referral from your primary care doctor, depending on your health insurance plan. Check with your carrier to see if medical coverage is an option for you and, if so, whether a referral is required.
  • What are the risks of this surgery?

    As with any surgery, breast reduction surgery does pose some risks. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, risks include:

    • Anesthesia complications
    • Bleeding or blood clots
    • Breast contour, shape, or symmetry irregularities
    • Changes in nipple or breast sensation
    • Damage to nerves, blood vessels, muscles, or lungs
    • Excessive breast firmness
    • Fluid accumulation (seroma)
    • Infection
    • Partial or total loss of nipple or areola
    • Persistent pain
    • Poor scarring
    • Possibility of revision surgery
    • Potential inability to breastfeed
    • Skin discoloration or pigment changes

    In addition to these risks, you should be aware that pregnancy, menopause, and changes in weight can affect breast appearance.

  • How should I prepare for surgery?

    Before surgery, you may be asked to get blood tests and take or adjust medications. If you smoke, quitting will help you heal faster and better avoid complications.