Does breast reduction surgery improve health-related quality of life? A prospective cohort study in Australian women

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Objectives To assess the health burden of breast hypertrophy and the comparative effectiveness of breast reduction surgery in improving health-related quality of life. Design Prospective cohort study. Setting A major public tertiary care hospital in Australia. Participants Women with symptomatic breast hypertrophy who underwent breast reduction surgery were followed for 12 months. A comparison control cohort comprised women with breast hypertrophy who did not undergo surgery. Interventions Bilateral breast reduction surgery for women in the surgical cohort. Main outcome measures The primary outcome measure was health-related quality of life measured preoperatively and at 3, 6 and 12 months postoperatively using the Short Form-36 (SF-36) questionnaire. Secondary outcome measures included post-surgical complications. Results 209 patients in the surgical cohort completed questionnaires before and after surgery. 124 patients in the control hypertrophy cohort completed baseline and 12-month follow-up questionnaires. At baseline, both groups had significantly lower scores compared with population norms across all scales (p<0.001). In the surgical cohort significant improvements were seen across all eight SF-36 scales (p<0.001) following surgery. Within 3 months of surgery scores were equivalent to those of the normal population and this improvement was sustained at 12 months. SF-36 physical and mental component scores both significantly improved following surgery, with a mean change of 10.2 and 9.2 points, respectively (p<0.001). In contrast, SF-36 scores for breast hypertrophy controls remained at baseline across 12 months. The improvement in quality of life was independent of breast resection weight and body mass index. Conclusion Breast reduction significantly improved quality of life in women with breast hypertrophy. This increase was most pronounced within 3 months of surgery and sustained at 12-month follow-up. This improvement in quality of life is comparable to other widely accepted surgical procedures. Furthermore, women benefit from surgery regardless of factors including body mass index and resection weight.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere031804
Number of pages9
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright information: © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ. is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:


  • breast hypertrophy
  • breast reduction
  • plastic & reconstructive surgery
  • quality of life
  • SF-36


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