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Study Supports Breast Reduction Benefits in Teens and Young Women

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American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)
August 27, 2019

Breast reduction surgery is a safe and effective procedure for adolescents and young women with pain and other concerns related to excessively large breasts, concludes a study in the September issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Breast reduction is one of the most popular plastic surgical procedures performed in the United States. This is due to the enormous impact that large, heavy breasts can have on a woman's quality of life and the physical and mental health improvements that surgery provides.

While the benefits and risks of breast reduction in adults are well-documented, few studies have focused on the risks and benefits in adolescents and young women. Despite the fact that 80% of affected women first experience symptoms during adolescence, most women who undergo breast reduction surgery are around 50 years old.

Breast Reduction Shown to Benefit Younger Patients

The researchers, led by ASPS Member Surgeon Brian I. Labow at Boston Children's Hospital, analyzed complications and their impact on quality of life in 512 adolescent girls and young women from 12 to 21 years of age who had breast reduction between 2008 and 2017. Outcomes showed that the benefits of breast reduction surgery included less pain and other breast-related symptoms, while improvements were seen in physical well-being, psychosocial functioning and self-esteem.

About a third of patients developed some kind of complication. However, the "vast majority" of complications were minor. "Patients had significant postoperative improvements in their physical and psychosocial well-being regardless if they experienced a complication," said the study.

The most common complication was thickened or raised scars (hypertrophic scarring), which occurred in 20% of patients. Those concerned about scarring were offered treatment with either surgery or steroid injection.

One concern about reduction mammaplasty in adolescents is the risk of breast growth after surgery. This occurred in about 5% of patients in the study, leading to the return of breast-related symptoms in about half of these cases. Noting that postoperative breast growth was unrelated to age, the researchers highlight the need to individually assess the maturity of each patient.

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