by Buck D


A breast lift is a cosmetic surgery of the breast. The procedure involves tightening of the breast tissue and removal of excess skin and surrounding tissue to reshape and support the breast.

Reasons for Procedure

A breast lift is done to raise and firms the breasts. It is often done to counteract changes caused by:

  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Changes in body weight
  • The aging process

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Infection
  • Poor healing of incisions
  • Changes in nipple or breast sensation
  • Breast shape irregularities
  • Breasts that are not the same in size or appearance
  • Changes in skin color
  • Damage to surrounding structures, such as nerves
  • Fluid build up
  • Blood clots
  • Pain
  • The need for future procedures
  • Failure to meet expectations

Smoking may increase the risk of complications.

This is an elective procedure. If you have any illnesses or you are in poor health, then you should not have this procedure.

Talk to your doctor about these risks before the procedure.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Before your procedure, your doctor will:

  • Do a physical exam, including a careful breast exam
  • Take blood tests
  • Ask if you have a family history of breast cancer or if you have had abnormal mammograms or biopsies
  • Order a mammogram
  • Talk to you about your expectations regarding the outcome of your surgery
  • Take photographs for comparison after surgery
  • Ask you about any medications, herbs, or supplements that you are taking.

Leading up to your procedure:

  • Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.
  • Arrange for help at home after returning from the hospital.
  • Avoid eating and drinking beginning at midnight the night before the procedure.
  • You may be asked to shower the morning of the procedure. You may be given special antibacterial soap to use.

You may need to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.


Local anesthesia may be used, but general anesthesia is usually used. With general anesthesia, you will be asleep. With local anesthesia, the selected area will be numbed.

Description of the Procedure

This procedure is usually done in an outpatient setting with no need for an overnight stay.

An incision will be made. Your surgeon will choose the incision pattern. The underlying breast tissue will be lifted and reshaped. The nipple and areola will be repositioned. The areolas may be reduced in size. Excess breast tissue will be removed. The remaining skin will be tightened and the incision will be closed with stitches, skin adhesives, and/or surgical tape. A small, thin tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain fluids.

How Long Will It Take?

About 3 hours

Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. You may have some bruising and tenderness around the breasts for several weeks after surgery. Talk to your doctor about medication to help manage the pain.

Post-procedure Care

To help with your recovery at home:

  • Wear aspecial bra or bandage to put pressure on the breasts to help support your breasts and decrease the chance of bleeding
  • Maintain proper wound care to prevent infection.
  • Continue with specific exercises or physical activity.

Call Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge at the incision site
  • Discoloration in either breast
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you were given
  • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


American Society of Plastic Surgeons 

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery 


Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery 

Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons 


Breast lift. Smart Beauty Guide—The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery website. Available at: Accessed December 18, 2017.

Breast lift surgery. University of Michigan website. Available at: Accessed December 18, 2017.

Breast lift surgery—mastopexy. American Society of Plastic Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed December 18, 2017.

Mastopexy. The American Society of Bariatric Plastic Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed December 18, 2017.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Donald W. Buck II, MD
  • Review Date: 11/2018
  • Update Date: 12/20/2014