Breast Lift Complications and Risks You Need to Know

Although risks are to be expected with any surgery, the more complicated the procedure (especially when it involves tissue removal), the greater the chance of complications. Mastopexy is no exception.

General Risks and Complications

The first possible breast lift complication is an allergic reaction to the anesthetic. General anesthesia is considered to carry more risks than other types, but any anesthetic could bring on a negative reaction. Please read our anesthesia section for a full disclosure of the inherent risks of undergoing anesthesia.

Negative reactions to medications may also be an issue, so watch for sudden rashes, difficulty breathing, increased or decreased heart rate, hives, wheezing, anxiety, fainting, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, etc. Medications that may commonly cause an allergic reaction include anticonvulsants, barbiturates, penicillin or other antibiotics, Novocain, Xylocaine, sulfa drugs, and some pain medications. For more information, see our anesthesia section.

Loss of Sensitivity or Numbness

Loss of sensitivity is a common, although temporary, mastopexy risk. Nerve endings are severed during breast lift surgery, so you must be patient until they regenerate and sensations start to return. This can take several months. However, permanent sensation loss in the areola (nipple) area or breasts can and may happen.

Scarring Irregularities

While scars are going to be a reality, there is also a risk of hypertrophic scar tissue (red, raised lump on the skin), keloids (an overgrowth of tissue that grows beyond the boundaries of the original incision) or inner scar tissue. If you smoke or have a history of abnormal collagen formation or scarring, you may have irregular scarring. A regimen of Steri-Strips directly post-op, switching over to scar gels and silicone gel sheeting after suture removal, may be helpful.

Wound Separation

The separation of the wound edges may be a risk of breast lift in some cases. If this occurs, keep the area very clean and contact your surgeon immediately. Revision surgeries are not always necessary but can be in some cases. Wet bandages can keep wound edges moist and encourage collagenation and wound binding. Additional surgery to either excise the wound edges or score the edges and resuture the incision is another possible approach. Regardless of the method needed to close the wounds, the healing process will take longer for a patient with separation than it will for a patient with normal wound healing.


Your breasts may be asymmetrical following surgery. Although your surgeon will attempt to make them as even in volume and height as possible, the body is not made of modeling clay. It also heals differently from patient to patient. However, this does not in any way excuse a surgeon from doing poor work. Please be sure to view as many of his or her breast lift before-and-after photographs as you can during your initial consultation to get an idea of general results.

Hyperpigmentations Or Permanent Bruising

Permanent hyperpigmentation (dark spots) from bruising are a risk of breast lift. Hyperpigmentation should subside in a matter of a few weeks but may stay for longer than expected. Do not get discouraged as there are treatments for this rare complication. Intense Pulsed Light treatments can break up the residual blood in the bruise and allow it to be resorbed by the body. Simple applications or warm compresses after you're healed can assist in the dilation of the blood vessels and the resorption of the blood.

Blood Loss

Intraoperative (during the operation) and postoperative blood loss are rare breast lift complications that require immediate medical attention. In very rare cases, blood transfusions may be necessary. Your surgeon will instruct that you cease taking any anti-coagulants, which may include aspirin and aspirin-containing medications, vitamin E, garlic tablets and more. Please see our Medication and Supplement List for further information and be sure to disclose each and every medication you are taking or have taken in the weeks before surgery.

Hematoma and Seroma

Any sudden change in contour or color of your skin should be reported immediately. A hematoma is a collection of liquid or clotted blood in a body cavity that can cause pain, scar tissue, infection and more. A seroma is a collection of the watery portion of the blood in a body cavity or space. A seroma can also cause pain and scar tissue.

Fat and Tissue Necrosis

There are more risks with this operation due to the fat and its surrounding tissues becoming necrotic (dead tissue). If the fat becomes necrotic from lack of blood supply, it tends to turn orange and drain from the incision; however, it can spread and worsen. If the tissue becomes necrotic, immediate treatment is necessary. You must have the tissue removed before it spreads, develops a major infection, or causes gangrene.

Necrosis of the breast tissue, breast envelope and or incision line is a very rare mastopexy complication, but there are increased risks in those with compromised wound healing abilities, a history of smoking, circulatory problems, and diabetes. The chances of necrosis are also increased after radioactive/chemotherapy treatment.

If tissue necrosis or compromised vascularity develop, please research Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) . It could save your breasts and your life.


Infections usually show symptoms within the first few days after the surgery. A common bacterial infection is Staphylococcus, or simply staph. Be sure to thoroughly wash your breast and torso area with an anti-bacterial soap such as Hibiclens or Anti-bacterial Dial for a few days before surgery. Patients are often told to wash their bodies thoroughly with these anti-bacterial soaps up to three days beforehand, although some surgeons require that you do so only the night before and the morning of. This precaution may assist in ridding the immediate area of staph, which occurs naturally on the skin. Your surgeon or the OR staff will also scrub you with a Betadine solution right before your incision is made.

Signs of infection usually include redness, severe swelling, discharge, foul smell, severe pain that develops several days after your surgery and does not improve, intense heat of the area, a fever over 100.5º F.

Burns from Ultrasonic-Assisted Liposuction

With the ultrasonic technique, patients have been known to receive burns from the fat that is melted within the body by energizing the fat molecules with high frequency radio waves and then suctioned out.

Pulmonary Thromboemboli

Another risk of breast lift is pulmonary thromboemboli, although it is not as high a risk as it is with liposuction-assisted reductions or when liposuction is performed in combination with breast reduction. A thromboebolus is a blood clot and this blood clot can break free and travel to the lungs, resulting in pulmonary Thromboemboli. This can put a patient into adult breathing distress and subsequently into cardiac arrest or coma, leading to the loss of oxygen rich blood to the brain. Pulmonary thromboemboli can happen within three (3) weeks of the surgery but will most likely show symptoms of shortness of breath and fatigue within the first 72 hours. However, it can occur suddenly, without warning.

To learn about health issues related to other types of pulmonary problems, such as pleural mesothelioma, visit our sister site. A topic of great interest on the site relates to prognosis for mesothelioma cancer.

General Dissatisfaction with Breast Lift Results

There is also a risk that the results of your breast lift will not live up to your expectations. Scars will be a definite issue and you must take this into account beforehand. They will also appear worse before they get better, so prepare yourself. Patience and scar products can help.

To obtain the best idea of your potential results for breast lift, visit Consumer Guide to Plastic Surgery and view before and after breast lift pictures.