Breast Reduction and Mastopexy After Massive Weight Loss

Breast Reduction and Mastopexy After Massive Weight Loss

Francesco M. Egro

J. Peter Rubin


The prevalence of morbid obesity continues to grow at an alarming rate. To reduce the rate of obesity-related complications, many people seek to lose weight through diet, exercise, or bariatric surgery. Massive weight loss (MWL) is defined as weight loss greater than 50 lb, and breasts are significantly affected by these changes. The loss of parenchymal volume combined to skin redundancy and loss of elasticity, leads to a flattened, deflated, and ptotic breast appearance. Furthermore, the skin redundancy produces a roll of skin and fat on the lateral border of the breast that extends onto the chest wall. This lateral roll blurs the lateral curve of the breast and often forms one continuous roll of soft tissue, greatly affecting the aesthetics of the breast (1). Correction of breast deformities remains a high priority for women who have undergone MWL, and this book chapter explores the anatomic changes observed in the breast after MWL and provides an overview of the preoperative evaluation, operative technique, and postoperative care to achieve an aesthetically pleasing result.


Given the wide variety of breast deformities seen in MWL patients, each consultation must be individualized to determine the most appropriate plan to pursue. Many breast contouring techniques following MWL have been described (2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) and several factors will determine which procedure is most appropriate: (a) severity of the breast deformities, (b) desired breast size, and (c) the surgeon’s experience.

Inadequate Breast Volume

Patients who have undergone significant breast involution or who do not have sufficient lateral skin and fat rolls for selective breast autoaugmentation will require breast implants if they desire larger breasts. Most of the patients that fall into this category are young women with good skin tone. These patients can be considered for an isolated breast augmentation if there is inadequate breast volume in combination with minimal ptosis and skin redundancy. Our preferred approach to breast augmentation is with an inframammary fold (IMF) incision. Patients who fall into this category represent less than 2% of MWL patients who require breast contouring. Description of this technique can be found in another section of this text dealing with augmentation mammaplasty.

Patients with inadequate volume associated with grade 2 or 3 ptosis, significant skin redundancy, an enlarged nipple areolar complex (NAC), and/or an inadequate lateral skin fold on physical examination will require a mastopexy in addition to augmentation mammaplasty. In select patients we perform an augmentation-mastopexy through a vertical incision extending beneath the NAC. After submuscular placement of the implant, we tailor tack the skin envelope to correct nipple position and control the redundant skin envelope. It is not uncommon to extend the incision along the IMF to control the skin redundancy. The patient must be made aware of this potential scar burden preoperatively. In complicated cases in which there is significant asymmetry or a loose IMF, we prefer to perform a staged augmentation-mastopexy to optimize the aesthetic outcome and minimize the risks for complication. In some cases, the patients have been satisfied with their breast size following the mastopexy, obviating the need for later augmentation.

Excessive Breast Volume

Approximately 20% of patients presenting for breast surgery have excessive breast volume necessitating a breast reduction. Our preferred technique is a Wise-pattern reduction mammaplasty using either a medial or inferior pedicle. The decision as to which pedicle is used will depend in part on the nipple-to-fold distance and on the experience of the surgeon. These techniques are described also in another section dealing with reduction mammaplasty and mastopexy. Although the procedure is performed in a similar manner as for non-MWL patients, there are special preoperative considerations and modification to the markings that may need to be addressed.
Some patients have significant medialization of the NAC. In these patients, it may be difficult to adequately rotate the pedicle to its new position on the breast meridian. If we believe that this might be an issue, then we choose an inferior pedicle. Since these patients may also have a considerable lateral skin fold, the posterior extension and width of the lateral excision can be significantly larger than for non-MWL patients. It is important to come out of the breast crease laterally when performing the markings to prevent a “boxy” appearance to the breast. The width of the lateral excision can be estimated with a pinch test. Liposuction of the lateral skin fold may be useful to further contour the lateral fold of the breast. This is best performed after the skin resection has been performed and the skin has been temporarily closed with staples.

Short-scar techniques in the MWL may result in a large inferior dog-ear due to the excessive skin redundancy and poor skin tone. This dog ear will require a horizontal excision to remove the redundancy. A pitfall of the short-scar technique would be to chase the dog ear inferiorly, which would leave an unsightly scar below the IMF. In addition, short-scar techniques will have minimal impact on the lateral skin and fat roll that is present in the majority of MWL patients.

Adequate Breast Volume

Although many of the women presenting after MWL feel that they need a breast reduction, the majority of these woman have adequate volume to give them the size and shape they desire. Careful examination of the breast parenchyma will determine whether there is sufficient parenchymal volume. The lateral skin and fat roll is also evaluated to assess how much tissue can be recruited into the breast for selective autoaugmentation. In patients who have adequate parenchymal volume, severe ptosis, and a significant lateral skin and fat roll, our preferred technique is dermal suspension with total parenchymal reshaping and selective autologous augmentation from the lateral chest wall (2,3,4). This technique provides reliable results with the ability to intraoperatively individualize the size and shape of the breast. Since the parenchymal reshaping and the amount of tissue recruited for autologous augmentation can be customized for each breast, this technique allows for the correction of difficult breast asymmetries often encountered in these patients.


In our practice, the only absolute contraindication for dermal suspension mastopexy and parenchymal reshaping with selective autoaugmentation includes active smoking because of potential of blood supply compromise to the flaps. Relative contraindications include BMI over 35, diffuse fibrocystic disease, prior breast scars, active intertrigo, and inadequate parenchymal or lateral roll volume to mobilize and build a breast mound.

Preoperative Planning

A thorough history and physical examination is performed (10). The surgeon should ask about weight loss, nutritional status, bariatric surgery, personal or family history of venous thromboembolic event or breast cancer, and smoking status. The patient should have maintained a stable weight, preferably with a BMI under 30, for at least 3 months (no more than a 5-lb change per month). Surgeons should assess for breast masses, scars, skin quality, parenchymal volume, NAC position, and the presence/size of lateral roll of skin and fat. All patients should undergo mammography in accordance with the American Cancer Society guidelines (11). Patients should stop medications that promote bleeding. Current smokers should be instructed to avoid smoking at least 1 month prior to surgery and should undergo a cotinine urine test before surgery. Informed consent should be obtained, and postoperative care should be discussed. Throughout the consultation, the patient’s goals should be gauged to ensure the expectations are realistic and can be met.

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Aug 25, 2021 | Posted by in Aesthetic plastic surgery | Comments Off on Breast Reduction and Mastopexy After Massive Weight Loss

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