Unfortunately gravity is unceasing and combined with age and sun related skin loss of elasticity a woman’s tissues surrounding her breast can lead to the breast mound falling lower on the chest. Additionally, the volume inside the breast can diminish with hormonal changes after pregnancy and menopause and with significant weight loss. All these factors triumphantly combine to give an aged appearance that can be significantly disproportionate to the otherwise youthful feeling of a women. Sound depressing? Sure it does but the artistry and science behind plastic surgery can offset these changes to a woman’s breasts and make them feel good about the skin they are in.
If someone is unhappy with the appearance of their breasts it is helpful for analysis sake to deconstruct the breast into two separate components: the overlying skin brazier, and the volume and its distribution of the breast mound on the chest wall.
The mound itself may have adequate volume but most of the distribution of the volume is in the lower pole of the breast well below the breast fold requiring a bra to perform a heroic task of keeping the breast on the proper location on the chest wall. This situation can be improved by a mastopexy (lift) with creating a lower pole breast flap of tissue transposed under the rest of the breast mound and fixated to a non-mobile portion of the chest wall to provide upper pole fullness. In this situation the skin brazier is loose and has allowed the breast mound to sink inferiorly and requires and generous amount of skin to be removed and repositioned to be coincident with the newly shaped breast mound. For some women this may produce a nice result but particularly individuals who have a very long trunk with a great distance from the breast fold to the collar bone, creating the appearance of low set breasts, the above technique requires another means of providing upper pole fullness. Some women are comfortable with adding an augmentation with a breast implant to enhance shape and form and creating a nice upper pole roundness. Some surgeons are comfortable offering an augmentation at the same time as the mastopexy. Other surgeons would argue, based on data which has shown a 25% revision rate with the combined procedures, would prefer to stage these techniques. I personally like to perform the augmentation mastopexy in a single stage because I would rather have the implant in place to provide shape and volume to the overlying breast mound prior to tailoring the skin envelope of the lift procedure. I find this saves the patient a second general anesthesia, reduces expenses, and can be performed in the office setting with much less cost. Generally, it is only a minor skin re-tailoring to minimally reposition the nipple-areolar complex vertically on the breast mound.
Implants can provide structural shaping and volume enhancement of the breast mound but there are definitely limitations to their effect. Women who have structural limitations to their chest wall anatomy can have difficulty in achieving satisfactory results with implants alone. Individuals with very wide sternums and rapidly sloping chest walls cannot achieve meaningful cleavage with implants alone because the devise cannot be placed on the sternum. Another anatomic limitation eluded to in the above paragraph is the long chest wall with the accentuated length of the breast fold to collar bone giving the illusion of the low set breast. Even an anatomic shaped breast implant which is taller than it is wide still cannot mask this affect. In both of the above situations in which implants are chosen as the enhancer of choice the addition of fat grafting is necessary to create a much enhanced result. The beauty of fat grafting is that it can be placed in any position on the chest or breast. It can be similar to the concept of photo-shopping an image and allows the surgeon to truly sculpt the breast and chest wall to closer reflect an ideal form and helps to hide these difficult anatomic variants with your very own fat.
Other women may prefer to avoid implants all together and in consultation with their surgeon may choose to enhance the shape and volume of the breast mound and chest wall in conjunction with a mastopexy with just fat grafting lone without implants. Just as implants have limitations so does fat grafting. The current art and science of the techniques of autologous fat grafting has a yield of around seventy percent sustainable take of the viable fat implanted into the tissues. This has been reproducible shown over many series of papers presented in the literature. Since fat is a very soft material that cannot resist significant opposing forces of the skin it is difficult to globally enhance a breast mound much larger than a cup to a cup and a half sizes larger in one session. Therefore a women who has a large skin envelope and very limited breast mound volume and desires to have a very full shape should not consider enhancement solely with fat alone. A combined implant with fat grafting provides a much better and stable result. In my experience fat grafting alone is best to sculpt and shape the cleavage and upper poles of the breast and chest wall interface. It can enhance the overall volume by a cup size as well. The other nice advantage of fat grafting for breasts is it allows the removal of unwanted fat volume from places like the flanks, abdomen, and thighs to achieve improved breast shape and sculpting of the body contour.
If you feel self-conscious about the appearance of your breast and feel it is disproportionate to the rest of the body and how you feel about yourself, consult a board certified plastic surgeon to define your goals and options for rejuvenating your breasts.