REDUCTION SURGERY, MORE EFFECTIVE THAN MEDICATION, DIET, OR SUPPORT
BRAS, TO RELIEVE SUFFERING OF OVERLY LARGE BREASTS
Women who suffer from painful physical
symptoms of overly large breasts show greater improvement with
breast reduction surgery over conservative treatments such as
special bras, weight loss, physical therapy, or medication reports
the April issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the
official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons
(ASPS). The study also confirms the benefits of breast reduction
surgery are considerable and not dependent on body weight, bra
cup size or amount of tissue removed.
"This study provides additional and even more convincing
evidence that breast reduction effectively improves the overall
health and wellness of large-breasted women with chronic pain
related to their breast size," said E. Dale Collins, MD,
a plastic surgeon at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New
Hampshire and first author of the study. "The findings also
support the fact that more conservative methods of treatment --
often required by insurance companies -- have failed to deliver
significant or lasting relief."
The study group included 363 women, 179 women with a median bra
cup size of DD who underwent breast reduction surgery, and two
sets of control groups that did not - 96 women with a bra cup
size less than D and 88 women with a bra cup size of D or larger.
Prior to surgery, 50 percent of the patients who had breast reduction
surgery reported pain in the upper back, shoulders, neck, and
lower back all or most of the time. While less than 10 percent
experienced these conditions after surgery.
Prior to seeking surgical relief, the patients who had breast
reduction surgery tried a number of conservative treatments including
weight loss, supportive bras, medications and physical therapy.
About 85 percent of these women previously tried weight loss to
relieve their symptoms, but more than half found the effort completely
ineffective and none of the women reported complete or permanent
symptom relief. Additionally, 77 percent of them tried one or
more medications to manage pain, including narcotic and non-narcotic
analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents and muscle
relaxants. After surgery, only 13 percent of these women required
medication, just slightly more than the control group consisting
of women with a bra cup size less than D (11 percent).
None of the conservative treatments
provided full or permanent relief of symptoms. In contrast, both
pain and overall health were markedly improved by breast reduction
surgery, restoring patients to normal levels of function.
Plastic surgeons have long observed that reducing breast mass
can effectively alleviate the symptoms associated with overly
large breasts. However, insurance denials and policy exclusions
for the procedure are becoming increasingly common. Insurers often
request patients seeking surgery try conservative measures first.
Additionally, some companies set arbitrary body weight restrictions.
This study demonstrates that all women, regardless of weight,
benefit from surgery and that conservative treatment weight loss
was not effective in relieving related symptoms.
"I believe insurance companies
drastically underestimate the severity of symptoms associated
with having overly large breasts," said Dr. Collins. "Patients
seeking surgery reported suffering from pain comparable to low
back pain or arthritis. Breast reduction surgery is a safe and
highly effective treatment option and should not be considered
a last resort."
According to ASPS expanded
statistics, 99,428 women had breast reduction surgery in 2001.
Breast reduction surgery was the fifth most performed reconstructive
plastic surgery procedure in 2001.
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