Taking a Closer Look at the Anatomy and Physiology of the Female Breast

Here at Atlanta Plastic Surgery, P.C., our experienced, board-certified plastic surgeons perform a wide variety of cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery procedures, ranging from facial rejuvenation to comprehensive body contouring.  However, there are no procedures that are more popular than breast surgery.  According to statistics compiled by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the assortment of plastic surgery techniques that can enlarge, reduce, or even change the position of the breasts account for more than a quarter of all cosmetic surgery performed in the United States.  Interestingly, despite this enduring popularity, many people still don’t realize just how complex the various types of cosmetic and reconstructive breast surgery can actually be.  The breasts are actually much more intricate than they appear, and understanding all that is involved in breast surgery begins with a closer look at all of the specialized organs and structures that make up the female breast.

Taking a Closer Look at the Anatomy and Physiology of the Female Breast

  • Chest Wall and Ribs: Underneath the various muscles and tissues that make up the breasts are the ribs and chest wall. While not technically part of the breasts, these underlying structures provide the solid foundation that gives the breasts lift and support.
  • Chest Muscles and Ligaments: The breast tissue sits atop the pectoralis minor and pectoralis major muscles, and is supported by fibrous tissues like the fascia and the Ligaments of Cooper.  Many women choose to have breast implants placed underneath the muscle for more natural looking results, but they can also be placed on top of the muscles as well.
  • Axillary Lymph Nodes: Around the armpit area are groups of lymph nodes that collect lymph fluid that has drained from the vessels of the lateral quadrants of the breast, chest, and upper limbs. This process filters harmful substances from the blood and nearby tissues, helping to fight infection.
  • Fatty Tissue (Adipose Tissue): The majority of the breast is composed of adipose tissue, a collection of fat cells that extend from the middle of the chest to under the arm. This fatty tissue fills the spaces around the ducts and the lobules, protecting and cushioning them while giving the breasts volume.
  • Areola: The circular area around the nipple that is more darkly pigmented than the surrounding skin.  Areola reduction surgery, which is commonly performed in conjunction with a breast lift or breast reduction procedure, can often help women who are unhappy with the size of shape of the areola.
  • Lobules (Mammary Glands): There are approximately 15 to 20 of these specialized organs connected to the nipple via the milk ducts. Each lobule contains tiny, hollow sacs (called alveoli) where milk is produced (and stored) during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Milk Ducts: A network of tubes radiating outward from the center of the breast that carry breast milk from where it is made in the lobules out to the nipple. The milk ducts and lobules are often the places where breast cancer is first detected, so these areas need to be monitored carefully.
  • Nipple: Milk ducts running from multiple milk-producing lobules join together as they run through the areola and ultimately funnel into the nipple, a small projection from which milk is expressed. Nipple reconstruction is sometimes performed as the last phase of a breast reconstruction

With more than 300,000 performed in the last year alone, it is easy to see why so many people think of breast augmentation as simple or routine.  However, once you see how complex and intricate the anatomy of the breast can be, it becomes clear that every surgical breast procedure must be individually customized to the needs of the patient, and that experience are expertise are required in order to achieve optimal, natural looking results.  During a breast surgery consultation, one of our expert plastic surgeons will carefully examine your unique anatomy and go over your personal health requirements, so that we can determine the approach that is right for you.  If you are interested in learning more about any of the various cosmetic plastic surgery procedures that our board certified plastic surgeons perform, please contact one of our Atlanta Plastic Surgery locations.  During a full consultation we will discuss your specific areas of concern and arrive at an approach that is customized for your individual needs.  Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to get all the latest plastic surgery news.