Are you too old for a breast reduction?

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For those considering breast reduction surgery, it may be a good idea to do it sooner rather than later. Infections following the surgery are more common in women older than 50, according to a new study in the December issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

“These results are interesting, and the cohort of 1,192 patients is quite large,” says Beverly Hills, CA, plastic surgeon, Leslie H. Stevens, MD, FACS. “In this study, the risk of infection is roughly 2.5 times greater in patients over the age of 50, compared to patients under the age of 40.” 

However, it’s important to remember that the overall risk is generally low for this procedure. One of the most commonly performed breast procedures, reduction mammoplasty, alters not only the aesthetics of the breasts, but also alleviates back, shoulder and neck pain associated with overly large breasts. 

So why is there an increase in risk of infection within little more than a 10 year age difference? The study authors suggest that declining hormone levels might be to blame. “Another interesting fact was that an increase in body mass index (BMI) was almost as likely to increase the risk of infection. One could argue that an older patient would also likely have an increased BMI,” Dr. Stevens says. 

Regardless of the root cause, the risk of infection can be minimized with simple precautions. “My protocol is the same for all breast reduction patients regardless of age,” Dr. Stevens says. “I routinely give intravenous antibiotics before surgery starts and oral antibiotics for a few days post op.”

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