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Weight Loss Encouraged Before Breast Reduction Surgery

Many women with large breast and weight issues seek breast reduction.  I was taught to encourage them to lose weight first.  Now there is a very small study that backs this up  (full reference below).

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons issued a press release entitled “Breast Reduction and Bariatric Surgery—Which Should Be Done First?” and provided the answer “Final Results May Be Better When Weight Loss Comes First.”  I agree, but find it odd that such a small study was published.  There should have been more patients included.

Jeffrey A. Gusenoff, MD, and colleagues reviewed two groups of patients who sought consultation for body contouring surgery August of 2008 and February of 2010 after massive weight loss (defined as a weight loss of greater than 50 pounds).

Group I (n=15) included any patients who underwent reduction mammoplasty for symptomatic macromastia before massive weight loss.  Group II (the control group, n=14) included any patients who did not undergo breast surgery before massive weight loss.

The patients were given a prospective phone survey to assess self-ratings of breast appearance before and after breast reduction and after massive weight loss, ability to exercise, which would have preferred to have first—massive weight loss or breast reduction surgery—and what they would recommend to a friend.

Of the 15 patients (7.9%) in group I, 14 completed the survey (93%).

For group I, all patients felt the appearance of their breasts improved after reduction (p < 0.001) but felt appearance worsened or stayed the same after weight loss (p = 0.003).

Seventy-one percent of patients were able to exercise more and 64 percent were able to lose weight on their own because of their reduction. ……..

Ten patients (71 percent) would recommend that a friend lose weight before breast reduction surgery. …

For group II, 79 percent of patients felt the appearance of their breasts worsened or stayed the same after massive weight loss (p = 0.03). ……

All 14 patients (100 percent) would recommend losing weight before undergoing breast surgery.

Even though I tend to agree that patients should lose weight prior to breast surgery, it is much easier to achieve the cosmetic goals of the patient if she is at or near her goal weight.  Otherwise, the surgeon and patient are left to guess at how her skin will retract with weight loss and how much deflation or loss of volume will occur.

I wish the study had asked how many of the Group I patients desired an augmentation as part of their revision.

Eleven patients (79 percent) felt a secondary lift following massive weight loss should be covered by insurance, and seven patients (50 percent) plan on having revision breast surgery.

They noted it with Group II patients

Eleven patients (79 percent) wished their breasts currently appeared different, with eight (57 percent) desiring lifted breasts, seven (50 percent) desiring general reshaping, two (14 percent) desiring reduced breasts, and two (14 percent) desiring larger breasts.

I have augmented four patients over my 21 years of practice who had previous breast reductions prior to losing weight (one was mine).  This should be included in the discussion as well as the high probability that a revision to reshape or re-lift the breasts will be needed if the reduction is done prior to the (massive) weight loss.


Reduction Mammaplasty, Obesity, and Massive Weight Loss: Temporal Relationships of Satisfaction with Breast Contour; Coriddi, Michelle; Koltz, Peter F.; Gusenoff, Jeffrey A.; Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. 128(3):643-650, September 2011; doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e318221da6b

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

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