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Order Matters: Breast Reduction and Weight Loss Surgery

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The Centers for Disease Control estimates there are roughly 33.8 percent of obese adults in the U.S., as defined as having a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher.

For many of these adults, bariatric surgery -- an operation on the stomach and/or intestines that helps patients with extreme obesity to lose weight -- is both an appealing and sometimes necessary option.

And for women, specifically, bariatric surgery and breast reduction surgery tend to go hand-in-hand because of the strain large breasts can put on females’ backs, ultimately making it more difficult to work out.

A kind of chicken or the egg problem, Dr. Jeffrey Gusenoff and his colleagues at the University of Rochester Medical Center set out to examine the effect of having one surgery prior to the other -- bariatric or breast reduction -- and its lasting satisfaction for those severly obese women who needed both surgeries.

“While there are some benefits to having breast reduction surgery first – including reduced pain and increased ability to exercise – women may be disappointed with the appearance of their breasts after they lose large amounts of weight,” Gusenoff and colleagues said in a news release.

The investigators surveyed 29 severely obese women who lost more than 50 pounds and looked at patient satisfaction and other outcomes. Fifteen of the women had breast reduction surgery before their weight loss.

“Of the women who had breast reduction surgery first, 86 percent thought their breasts looked worse after massive weight loss. About half said they planned to have further surgery to improve the appearance of their breasts and others said they would have further breast surgery if it was covered by insurance,” according to a HealthDay report.

The study also found that 71 percent of the women who did not have breast surgery before bariatric surgery said their breasts looked worse after bariatric surgery and half of them planned to have breast reduction surgery. Others said they also would have breast reduction surgery if they could afford it.

The researchers concluded in their abstract from the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, “Most reduction patients before massive weight loss are glad they had the reduction and become more active but ultimately needed bariatric surgery to accomplish weight loss goals and are dissatisfied with breast contour following massive weight loss. Thus, patients who are considering bariatric procedures should be encouraged to pursue that operation before proceeding with reduction mammaplasty.”

If you’re considering bariatric surgery or a breast reduction, seek advice from your health care provider before making any rash decisions. It’s likely a breast reduction beforehand won’t be the only breast work you’ll end up having done or wanting done.


Is Breast Reduction After Weight Loss Surgery Best? HealthDay. Web. 5 Sept 2011.

Bariatric Surgery for Severe Obesity. Control Information Network. 5 Sept 2011. http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/gastric.htm

Reduction Mammaplasty, Obesity and Massive Weight Loss: Temporal Relationships of Satisfaction With Breast Contour. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 5 Sept 2011.

U.S. Obesity Trends. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 5 Sept 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html

Bailey Mosier is a freelance journalist living in Orlando, Florida. She received a Masters of Journalism from Arizona State University, played D-I golf, has been editor of a Scottsdale-based golf magazine and currently contributes to GolfChannel.com. She aims to live an active, healthy lifestyle full of sunshine and smiles.

Reviewed September 5, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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