A retrospective study of changes in physical symptoms and body image after reduction mammaplasty

Plast Reconstr Surg. 1999 Jan;103(1):76-82; discussion 83-5. doi: 10.1097/00006534-199901000-00013.


Reduction mammaplasty is performed typically to alleviate the painful physical symptoms of macromastia. Women who suffer from macromastia also frequently present to the plastic surgeon with heightened body image dissatisfaction and maladaptive behavioral changes in response to their breast size. Numerous investigations have demonstrated improvement in physical symptoms after breast reduction surgery. Studies have also suggested that psychological improvement occurs postoperatively; however, they have not used well-validated, standardized psychological measures. The present study is a retrospective analysis of the physical and psychological status of women who underwent reduction mammaplasty. One hundred ten patients who underwent a reduction mammaplasty between 1982 and 1996 were mailed a packet of questionnaires designed to assess current physical symptoms and body image. Sixty-one of the 110 patients (55 percent) responded. The vast majority reported substantial improvement or elimination of neck, back, shoulder, and breast pain, grooving from bra straps, poor posture, skin irritation, and social embarrassment. In addition, they reported significantly less dissatisfaction with their breasts as compared with a sample of breast reduction patients assessed preoperatively. Symptom relief and improved body image occurred independently of preoperative body weight, as we found few significant differences between obese and non-obese women concerning the resolution of physical symptoms or improvement in body image. Results provide further evidence of the efficacy of reduction mammaplasty not only for relief of physical symptoms but also for alleviation of body image dissatisfaction.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Image*
  • Breast / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Pain / etiology
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Retrospective Studies