What is a Breast Lift?

Mastopexy (or breast lift) is a surgical procedure to tighten the skin and reposition the breast mound and nipple at a higher position on the chest wall. It is performed under general anesthesia as out-patient surgery. Breast position may gradually descend (also referred to as breast ptosis) with natural aging as skin loses elasticity, following breastfeeding or significant weight loss. A breast lift may be performed to reposition breast tissue and to correct ptosis. The nipple is repositioned to a higher site on the chest, which can help restore a more youthful appearance of the breast.

"I think the best results are natural-looking. Refreshed and reflected by a patient’s self-confidence."


Who is a Candidate for A Breast Lift?

A good candidate for breast lift is an overall healthy person (or with well-controlled medical conditions) with well-defined surgical goals. It is important to understand the risks, benefits, and limitations of breast lift surgery and be able to comply with post-operative wound care instructions as well as activity restrictions as healing occurs. Smoking is a contraindication to breast lift surgery given the increased risk of healing complications (infection and risk of skin flap or nipple necrosis, in particular). If future pregnancies are planned, it is also recommended to defer breast lift to lower the risk of recurrent ptosis and the potential need for repeat surgery to achieve a desired aesthetic outcome.

People who desire larger breasts are likely not good candidates for breast lift surgery, as breast augmentation with breast implants will likely meet their needs better than breast lifts.

What Are the Different Techniques for A Breast Lift?

Incision placement will depend on breast and body measurements, ranging from periareolar (limited to a circular incision around the areola), to short vertical scar (the so-called lollipop), to the Wise pattern incision (anchor pattern, extending the lollipop with a horizontal incision in the breast crease).

The periareolar incision (also called donut breast lift) may result in the least visible scarring. The incision is placed in a circular fashion around the areola at the junction between areolar and breast skin. Although it may result in the least apparent scarring, the lift effect is limited to approximately 1cm. It may be a useful technique for mild cases of breast ptosis.

For patients with more pronounced ptosis, the vertical incision or Wise pattern may be required to achieve a more powerful lift effect. The horizontal incision below the breast is generally well-concealed within the natural breast fold.

Breast lift may achieve the following goals:

  • Enhanced breast mound position
  • Elevated nipple position
  • Reduction in areolar diameter

What To Expect During a Consultation for Breast Lift

During consultation for breast lift with board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Stephanie Power, your aesthetic concerns will be discussed in detail. It is important to figure out whether you are interested in a lift alone or whether you also wish to increase volume in addition to the lift. For patients in the latter group, augmentation mastopexy (breast lift with implants) may be recommended to achieve your aesthetic goals. A breast lift alone will not increase breast volume.

A complete medical history will be taken during the consultation. Dr. Power will ask about your personal or family history of breast or ovarian disease. A detailed pregnancy and weight history will also be performed. If future pregnancies are planned, it is advised to defer breast lift until pregnancies and breastfeeding are completed.

Smoking status is a key point in pre-operative assessment. Smoking has detrimental effects on healing and increases the risk of infection and delayed wound healing. In the most extreme cases, smoking could lead to skin flap or nipple necrosis following breast lift. A patient may be a candidate for breast lift if smoking cessation is achieved and maintained for at least one month pre- and post-operatively, which has been shown to lower these associated risks.

During a physical examination, breast and chest wall measurements will be made to assess the degree of breast ptosis. The tissue under the arms toward the side of the breasts will also be examined (called the lateral thoracic region). This region is not addressed through breast lift. If fullness is present at this site, it may be amenable to correction through combined liposuctionIt is important for patients to achieve a healthy body mass index prior to having a breast lift performed.  A BMI of 25 or less is recommended. If weight loss occurs following breast lift, breast ptosis may recur and volume may be less predictable.

How To Prepare for Breast Lift Surgery

Specific instructions will be given to each patient pre-operatively. It is important to avoid anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. Advil, Aleve, and Aspirin) for one month before surgery to lower the risk of bleeding. It is generally safer to hold off on herbal supplements as well since some may increase the risk of bleeding. Dr. Power will give specific recommendations based on your particular medications and supplements. Your prescription for post-operative medications will be given to fill in advance.

Prepare a comfortable bed with 2-3 pillows to elevate your head and back following surgery, which may reduce discomfort and further swelling. You will be given information regarding the time to arrive. It is important to begin fasting (no eating or drinking) at midnight before surgery. If any prescription medications are routinely taken, Dr. Power will advise whether to take on the morning of surgery with a limited sip of water.

What to expect following breast lift?

Breast lift is performed under general anesthetic as out-patient surgery.  You will awaken in the post-operative recovery room.  It is important to wear a post-operative sports bra for one month following surgery.  At that time you may get fitted for and resume wearing an underwire bra if desired.  Prescription pain medication is generally required for a few days post-operatively.  It is recommended to wean to Tylenol plain or extra-strength as soon as able to lower risk of narcotic side effects.  Bruising will resolve within 1-2 weeks.  The majority of swelling will resolve over the few first weeks, however final results will not be apparent for many months, even up to one year, as scar tissue matures and subtle swelling resolves.

What is the Anticipated Recovery After Breast Lift Surgery?

Once no longer requiring pain medication and able to mobilize appropriately, you may resume driving. Patients are generally able to return to light office work within a week of surgery. If job responsibilities are more strenuous, a longer recovery period may be required. Exercise and heavy lifting over 5 lbs should be avoided for one month following breast lift to lower the risk of bleeding and further swelling.

What Are the Risks of Breast Lift Surgery?

Risks of breast lift surgery include infection, bleeding, hematoma formation, and delayed wound healing. If one breast becomes firm, enlarged, and more bruised compared to the other side during early recovery, this could signify hematoma formation, which refers to a collection of blood or ongoing bleeding post-operatively. A hematoma is the main cause for concern during early recovery and Dr. Power should be notified immediately.

Further risks include hypertrophic or thickened scarring, nipple sensation changes, asymmetry, and dissatisfaction with aesthetic outcome. If risk factors for increased scarring are identified during pre-operative assessment, silicone sheeting may be recommended. If worn continuously for 3-4 months following breast lift except when showering, silicone sheeting may improve scar appearance through hydration and increasing scar temperature. Scar massage is also recommended beginning a couple of weeks following breast lift to promote scar remodeling.

As for any breast surgery, particularly when an incision is carried around the nipple, altered nipple sensation may result. The majority of cases will improve or resolve over time, however permanent sensation changes may occur. There is also a risk of nipple necrosis, which is rare in healthy non-smoking patients.

Can Breast Lift Be Combined with Other Surgeries?

A traditional breast lift may be combined with other surgeries based on a patient’s aesthetic goals, clinical presentation, and anticipated length of surgery. Common combinations in healthy candidates include breast lift and tummy tuck (the so-called mommy makeover) as well as breast lift with liposuction of the lateral thoracic region.

Will Exercise Achieve the Same Results as A Breast Lift?

Exercise will not achieve equivalent results to a breast lift and may in fact result in more significant sagging breasts. During a breast lift, the skin envelope is tightened by removing excess skin and repositioning breast tissue. Exercise may reduce fatty tissue within the breasts and increase the appearance of excess breast skin. Once the skin has been stretched beyond a certain degree, it will not contract sufficiently following weight loss to resuspend breast position.

During breast lift, the areola may also be reduced to achieve a more youthful position. This is also not able to be done simply with exercise. Exercise is still recommended for overall health benefits and to achieve a healthy body mass index before undergoing elective cosmetic surgery.

Will Breast Lift Remove Stretch Marks?

The appearance of stretch marks may improve following a breast lift since the skin envelope is tightened and some breast skin is removed. However, a breast lift may not remove all stretch marks from the breasts.

Are There Any Age Restrictions Relating to Breast Lift?

No. When considering breast lift at a younger age, the most important question relates to plans for future pregnancies. While breastfeeding may be performed following a breast lift, breast shape and position may be affected by future pregnancies and breastfeeding. If planning future pregnancies, it is recommended to defer breast lift until at least 6 months following completion of breastfeeding.

There is also no upper age limit when considering breast lift. It is important for patients to be otherwise healthy or for medical conditions to be well-controlled before undergoing elective surgery under general anesthesia. Patients over age 50 are routinely worked up through blood work, chest x-ray, and EKG before surgery to ensure otherwise healthy. If being treated for other medical conditions, consultation with an anesthesiologist or another medical specialist may be required pre-operatively to ensure that surgery may safely be performed. This relates to a patient’s medical conditions and overall health as opposed to age alone.

How Long Will the Results of A Breast Lift Last?

As swelling resolves and healing progresses, early results will be apparent within a few months of surgery. Final results, as with any cosmetic breast surgery, may take up to one year as scar maturation completes. The breasts will still be subject to the ongoing effects of aging and gravity, however, results of breast lift surgery should be long-lasting as long as one’s weight remains fairly stable. If pregnancy and breastfeeding occur following a breast lift, results may be less predictable and a repeat lift may be required based on one’s aesthetic goals.

Can A Breast Lift Reduce Large Areolae?

A breast lift will reduce large areolae. Stretched or enlarged areolae often result from breastfeeding and pregnancy. During a breast lift procedure, areolas may be reduced in size and lifted while also repositioning breast tissue to reduce tension on the wound closure. Areolar reduction, if performed alone carries a high risk of recurrence given greater skin tension. Permanent stitches may be placed to lower the risk of recurrent stretching. If you are considering a breast lift or areolar reduction surgery, it is generally recommended to defer surgery until you have completed pregnancies and breastfeeding to lower the risk of recurrence. Each patient is unique and should be assessed by a board-certified Toronto plastic surgeon to determine the best timing and approach.

Breast Lift FAQs

Is a breast lift covered by insurance?

A breast lift is generally not covered by insurance as it is considered cosmetic surgery. A breast reduction may be covered by insurance if performed for medical reasons (e.g. back and shoulder pain).

Do I need a breast lift or just implants?

Whether you need a breast lift or just implants depends on your goals and appearance. If you are concerned about sagging following pregnancies, breastfeeding, or weight loss, a breast lift will likely be required. If you are happy with your breast position and just wish to make them larger, breast implants alone might be an option. Sometimes a combination surgery of breast lift with implants may be performed to achieve both goals.

Do you lose sensation with breast lift?

In the majority of cases, you do not lose sensation with breast lift surgery. There is a low risk of developing sensitivity or numbness of the nipple after breast lift, however most cases return to normal feeling within a few months.

Do you still have feeling in your nipples after breast lift?

In most cases, you should still have feeling in your nipples after a breast lift. If any change in sensation is noticed, it generally improves within three months.

Does a breast lift cost more than implants?

A breast lift usually costs less than breast augmentation given that there is no implant cost. A surgical quote will be given to you after consultation, which may vary depending on the extent of surgery.

Does a breast lift leave scars?

A breast lift leaves scars as expected with any surgery. Depending on the degree of lift required, scars range from the upper half of the areola (crescent lift) to a full anchor pattern, which involves a lollipop scar plus a horizontal extension along the breast fold.

Does a breast lift make your nipples less sensitive?

A breast lift may increase or decrease your nipple sensation, but most cases return to normal feeling within three months.

Does insurance pay for breast lift?

Public insurance typically does not pay for breast lift surgery.

How do you shower after a breast lift?

You may resume showering the day after a breast lift. You may allow soapy water to run over your chest, gently pat dry afterwards, and then change back into your surgical bra.

How long do breast lift results last?

Breast lift results should be long-lasting as long as you maintain a stable body weight and wear a supportive bra. If planning further pregnancies, you should also wait to undergo breast lift surgery so that results will be maintained.

How long does a breast lift last?

A breast lift should lead to long-lasting results if you maintain a stable and healthy body weight. Wearing a supportive bra may also lower the risk of further sagging in the future.

How long does a breast lift take?

A breast lift generally takes 2-3 hours to perform.

How long does it take for breast lift scars to heal?

It takes one year for breast lift scars to fully heal and reach final appearance.

How much does breast lift cost?

A breast lift costs $6-8000 on average and depends on the extent of surgery. You will receive a detailed surgical quote after consultation.

How much is a mini breast lift?

The average cost for a mini breast lift is $6000. A surgical quote will be provided after your consultation.

How painful is a breast lift?

A breast lift is often painful for a few days after surgery. You should be able to stop taking prescription pain medication within 48-72 hours.

How soon after breast lift can I exercise?

You may generally resume exercise one month after breast lift.

Is getting a breast lift safe?

Although every surgery has risks, breast lift is generally a safe procedure when performed on a healthy non-smoker by a board-certified plastic surgeon in an accredited facility.

What is a crescent breast lift?

A crescent breast lift is a surgery that removes skin from the upper part of the breast in a moon-shaped pattern. It results in a subtle breast lift while minimizing scarring to the upper half of the areola.

What is a partial breast lift?

A partial breast lift is another name for a crescent lift. It results in a subtle lift effect while minimizing scarring to the upper half of the areola.

What types of breast lifts are there?

There are four main types of breast lift surgery: crescent, peri-areolar (donut), vertical (lollipop), and anchor (Wise pattern) lifts.

Will a breast lift reduce cup size?

A breast lift generally does not affect cup size unless performed in combination with breast reduction. Breast lift surgery removes excess skin and repositions breast tissue, thereby tightening the skin envelope and lifting the breasts. It does not remove breast tissue.

Will a breast lift remove stretch marks?

A breast lift will remove some but likely not all stretch marks on the breasts.

Will breast lift affect breastfeeding?

A breast lift generally does not affect breastfeeding.

Can I go without a bra after a breast lift?

It is recommended to wear a supportive bra full-time, even when sleeping, over the first 4-6 weeks after a breast lift. After that time period, a bra is not required while sleeping, but should be worn the majority of the time to lower risk of recurrent ptosis (sagginess).

What are the risks of a breast lift?

Risks of breast lift surgery include bleeding, hematoma, infection, and delayed healing or compromised blood supply of the skin flaps or nipple. There are additional risks of asymmetry, nipple sensation changes, and dissatisfaction with aesthetic outcome. Potential risks relating to the general anesthetic will also be discussed in depth as part of the informed consent process. Risks are low for healthy non-smoking patients at healthy body mass index.

Can A Breast Lift Reduce Large Areolae?

A breast lift will reduce large areolae. Stretched or enlarged areolae often result from breastfeeding and pregnancy. During a breast lift procedure, areolas may be reduced in size and lifted while also repositioning breast tissue to reduce tension on the wound closure. Areolar reduction if performed alone carries a high risk of recurrence given greater skin tension. Permanent stitches may be placed to lower the risk of recurrent stretching. If you are considering breast lift or areolar reduction surgery, it is generally recommended to defer surgery until you have completed pregnancies and breastfeeding to lower risk of recurrence. Each patient is unique and should be assessed by a board-certified plastic surgeon to determine the best timing and approach.

Is there a breast lift without scars?

Since a surgical breast lift can produce the most transformative results, scars will be an inevitable part of the process. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the appearance of scars including scar massage and silicone gel or sheet treatments during your recovery. Scarring ranges from a circular scar around the areola for small lifts to an anchor pattern for more extensive surgery. Scar maturation progresses over one year post-operatively.

How do you sleep after a breast lift?

For the first few weeks after a breast lift it is recommended to sleep on your back with your upper body elevated on 2-3 pillows. This protects your chest and avoids direct pressure on your incisions. Elevation also helps to reduce swelling. Lying on your side during early healing after a breast lift may result in greater swelling on the dependent side. It is also important to wear your surgical bra while sleeping over the first 4-6 weeks as recommended by your surgeon.

Can breast implants last 30 years?

Breast implants are not designed to be lifelong medical devices. While they may last 30 years, replacement or removal may be required should concerns arise at any time, potentially relating to implant rupture or concerns based on imaging or aesthetic changes. It is a myth however, that breast implants should be replaced every 10 years.

How do I know if I need a breast lift?

Generally, if your breasts sag when you take your bra off and your nipples sit below the crease of your breast, you may need a breast lift.

Is a breast lift cheaper than augmentation?

Generally, a breast lift is less expensive than breast augmentation because implants are not included in your costs. However, each procedure is unique and you'll receive a full estimate of your costs during your consultation with Dr. Power.

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