New Reduction Procedure Helps Women Get Weight ‘Off Their Chest’

ByABC News
January 31, 2002, 1:37 PM

Feb. 1 -- It's a complaint many women find difficult to feel sympathy for large breasts. But for many large-breasted women, their double D cups are, in fact, a bodily burden.

Heavy, pendulous breasts can bestow a lifetime of problems for the "well-endowed" limiting sports activities, and causing significant back pain and spine problems, and even emotional issues.

Fortunately there is an alternative to a top-heavy fate when the support bras prove insufficient breast reduction surgery. But along with liberation from the added pounds up top, the traditional surgery also brings risks such as permanent scarring and loss of sensation in the breasts.

Enter a new approach to breast reduction, aimed at making the surgery more "user-friendly." It's called liposuction breast reduction, and according to some plastic surgeons, the procedure involves less pain, less scarring, less recovery and better results.

"The scarless breast reduction is basically a very special variation of liposuction, and what we do is to reduce the breast by anywhere from one to three cup sizes," Dr. Sherwood Baxt, a New Jersey plastic surgeon, told Good Morning America's Dr. Nancy Snyderman.

Breaking From Tradition

In the traditionalal breast reduction surgery, called mammaplasty, the surgeon makes a large T-shaped incision to remove excess glandular tissue, fat, and skin.

By contrast, with liposuction breast reduction the surgeon makes one small incision under the fold of each breast. The incision is just large enough to fit a tiny cannula, or tube, through which the surgeon sucks out excess fat.

And while the traditional surgery can take up to five hours and nine weeks for full recovery, liposuction breast reduction takes less than an hour with patients back to their full activities within a week.

Surgeons hope liposuction breast reduction will reassure many breast reduction candidates who may have previously been deterred by risks of extreme scarring and loss of sensation in the nipple. Dr. Lawrence Gray, of the Atlantic Plastic Surgery Center in Portsmouth, N.H., explains that since the surgeon using liposuction is only removing the fat portion of the breast, there's no risk of losing sensation in the nipple.

And as for the cost, liposuction reduction is the more attractive option, says Gray. "There's less surgery and recovery time [than the traditional surgery], so it should be greatly reduced costs to patients."

Liposuction Limitations

But while liposuction is often used in conjunction with the traditional breast reduction surgery, Dr. Ed Luce, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, says it is uncommon to rely on the procedure alone to reduce breast size.

The reason is that while liposuction can remove some of the fatty tissue in the breast, it does not address excess breast tissue, stretched ligaments and stretched skin, problems that only the traditional method can address. Luce explains that young women with modest breast enlargement, but without much sagging, would likely make the best candidates for liposuction reduction.

And Dr. Michele Copeland, a New York City plastic surgeon who also performs the liposuction breast reduction procedure, agrees the procedure is not for every woman. "Because no skin is removed, a woman needs to have a breast that doesn't have too much sagging but that has volume," Copeland told Good Morning America's Dr. Nancy Snyderman.

Gray concedes there are some limitations to the procedure. "Most of the time, the patient can go down two cup sizes, but if they want to go from a D to an A, I can't do it," adds Gray. And perfect nipple position cannot always be guaranteed.

But of the 600 liposuction breast reductions he has performed over the past eight years, Gray says he has only had six patients who needed breast lifts in addition to the liposuction, and just one patient who was ineligible because her breasts had too little fat tissue. "We know that if you reduce the weight, the skin will tighten up."

Still, says Gray, when compared to the traditional procedure in which close to 50 percent of patients will have complications, the reduced risks of liposuction breast reduction makes it a considerable "innovation."