Breast Reduction Complications

Although for many patients breast reduction can be a positive and even life changing experience, all surgery carries certain risks. The results of breast reduction are not completely predictable and will be affected by the nature of the patient’s tissues and healing process. Therefore, the aesthetic result cannot be guaranteed and it is possible for a patient to be dissatisfied with some aspect of the results of their operation.  Realistic expectations together with a good relationship with an experienced surgeon is your best insurance of a happy outcome.

The following is a list of possible complications of which you should be aware and which may occur despite the surgeon’s best efforts. In most cases they can be managed, with a  satisfactory outcome. However, if you feel that you would be unable to cope with a complication then you should not undergo the surgery.


Excessive bleeding will result in bruising and swelling.  A haematoma (blood clot inside the breast) may form and this may require evacuation in the operating theatre.  This usually occurs in the first 24 hours after surgery and the risk can be minimized by patients avoiding anti-inflammatory drugs (other than Panadol) for a month before surgery.


Infection is rare provided the suture lines are treated with care.  Prevention of wound infection is the reason patients are given antibiotics during and after their surgery.

Delayed Healing

Wound disruption or delayed wound healing is possible. Some areas may not heal normally and it is even possible to have loss of skin or nipple tissue. Further surgery may be required. Smokers have an increased risk of healing complications.


Excessive firmness of the breast may occur due to internal scarring or fat necrosis


The scars from breast reduction are located around the nipple and on the undersurface of the breast.  The scars vary in length according to the size of the breast reduction and are normally red and thickened for several months before fading.  In some patients the scars may thicken, widen and become either pale or pigmented. Further treatment of the scars may be required.


It is normal for a woman breasts to be slightly unequal in size and shape.  Although surgical steps may be taken to improve the symmetry, nevertheless the size and shape of the breasts and nipples may be slightly unequal following surgery.


Although steps are taken to preserve the nerve supply to the nipple, it is possible that there will be changes in sensation and even numbness following the surgery.  In addition, it is usual for sensation to be reduced in the skin under the nipple and around the scars.

Allergic Reactions

Local allergies to surgical tape or suture materials may occur. Skin rashes and other reactions may occur due to medications given during or after surgery.

Unacceptable new body image

Occasionally some women find that their smaller breasts are not to their liking.  Very rarely some women request breast augmentation.

Pregnancy and breast feeding

It is not possible to predict the effect that future pregnancies will have on the size and shape of the breasts.  Should future pregnancies cause the breasts to sag, then further surgery may be required to produce an optimum breast shape.  Although the breast reduction is performed in a way that is designed to preserve the connections between the central part of the breast and the nipple in order to allow breast feeding, success in breast feeding can never be guaranteed.

Comments from others

Although it is anticipated that most comments will be complimentary, it is possible that unkind comments made by a third party can lead to anxiety and dissatisfaction.

Emotional effects

Should complications occur, there may be significant adverse affects on a patient’s life, including social, sexual, emotional, physical and financial.  In addition, a patient’s ambitions for breast reduction to achieve social and professional goals may not be achieved.

Revision surgery

Should revision surgery be required this may be emotionally, socially and financially demanding.