The internet is a great way to find information, but sometimes it’s difficult to know how to interpret the information you find. Case in point: looking up medical information. Many of my patients research operations and treatments online before they see me. I recently had a patient ask about complications after breast reduction surgery. She had looked this up on Google, and was terrified by what she saw. But fortunately very little of what she saw actually applied to her specific case. Here is what I told her:
Breast reduction surgery removes a large amount of tissue: anywhere from 1-4+ pounds of tissue per side. When the remaining tissue does not have adequate blood flow, healing problems can occur. These might range from a small area that is slow to heal all the way up to losing a nipple.
The major risk factors for healing problems are
- Very large breast size
If none of these apply to you, your risk of complications is significantly reduced. But what if they do? Can you reduce your risk of complications? The answer is yes. Let’s cover each individual situation.
- Smoking: The simple answer is to quit smoking. Nicotine causes your blood vessels to constrict, resulting in decreased blood flow to the site of surgery. So you need to avoid all nicotine products during the healing period, which is about 6 weeks.
- Diabetes: Good management of your diabetes lowers your risk of complications. This is measured by your hemoglobin A1c level. If your level is higher than normal, you may need to work with your primary care physician or endocrinologist prior to having surgery to achieve better management of your diabetes.
- Large breasts: If you have very large breasts, your surgeon may recommend a free-nipple reduction, where the nipple is taken off the breast and put back on as a skin graft. This ensures good blood flow to the nipple in its new position.
- Obesity: Studies have shown that complications of breast reduction are increased in obese patients. There is no strict weight cutoff, but I recommend my patients get to a BMI of 35 or below prior to having surgery.
Have you ever been confused or overwhelmed by medical information you found on the internet? Where did you go for help?