What’s the Difference Between a Breast Reduction and a Breast Lift?

The very close similarities of breast reduction (reduction mammoplasty) and breast lift surgery (mastopexy) can create confusion for those women contemplating certain types of breast procedures. In fact, sometimes the only distinction between them is based on arbitrary values of the quantity of breast tissue that is removed. Despite the shared similarities, these two procedures have distinctly different primary purposes. A breast reduction is designed to reduce the size and weight of the breasts while a breast lift is designed to lift the breasts and improve their position and shape.

Turkeltaub Before and After Breast Reduction PhotosReasons for Breast Reduction Surgery

Breast reduction surgery is one that specifically serves to reduce the size of the breasts. There are many motivations for undergoing this procedure. These can include just wanting to be smaller for its own sake, being unhappy with the undesirable attention that they garner (including unwelcome comments or ridicule), and even difficulty in finding bras and clothes that fit and are complimentary. A majority of women are tired of the often problematic and even debilitating symptoms associated with large breasts including chronic neck, back, and shoulder pain, rashes, skin breakdown, breast pain, grooving of the shoulders, postural changes and fatigue. Breast reduction surgery can resolve most, if not all, of these and improve the quality of life.

Those women with substantial symptoms due to their large breasts may qualify for insurance coverage for their breast reduction surgery. On the other hand, insurance does not cover breast lift surgery.

Reasons for Breast Lift Surgery

Breast lift surgery is intended to recontour, rejuvenate and re-elevate the breasts to a more appropriate position on the chest wall. Women typically undergo this procedure for cosmetic reasons in order to correct noticeable breast sagging that has resulted from issues like gravity, aging, pregnancy, breastfeeding, or major weight loss. This sagging may be mild, moderate, or severe. Other deficiencies can be addressed at the same time including asymmetries size – either having a concurrent enlargement or a (“small”) reduction.

Surgical Techniques

Both procedures can use and frequently do use the same inverted-T incision (also called anchor shaped) that extends from around the areola, then down to and along the crease at the bottom of the breast. With this approach, both usually involve a reshaping and re-elevation of the breasts, along with a reduction in the size of the areolas and their elevation to a more appropriate position.

With the breast lift, there is more emphasis on breast elevation, skin removal, and rejuvenation of appearance. This procedure can either be done alone, in conjunction with a breast augmentation, or even with a small reduction where there is some removal of more than a minor amount of breast tissue.

When there is a lesser amount of drooping, other shorter incisions can be employed including a crescent-shaped one at the top of the areola, a periareolar approach (around the areola) and a lollipop one (around the areola and extending down to the breast crease). However, with a breast reduction, a sizable portion of breast tissue is also removed.

The primary purpose of a breast reduction is to remove a substantial amount of breast tissue in order to significantly decrease the size and weight. The lifting of the breasts and areolas are more secondary issues here, though they are still part of the procedure.

Breast lift surgery and breast reduction surgery can both improve the appearance and feel of the breasts by restoring the breasts to a more balanced position, firmness, shape, and/or size. To learn more about either of these procedures, request your personal consultation with our board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Steven Turkeltaub. Call (480) 451-3000 or fill out our online contact form to reach us today.