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Older Women Have More Post-Surgical Breast Reduction Infections

Last Updated: November 28, 2011.

Researchers say lower hormone levels in women over 50 may explain it.

MONDAY, Nov. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Women over 50 have more complications -- particularly infections -- following breast reduction surgery than younger women do, a new study says.

The higher rate of complications in older women is probably due to age-related changes in hormone levels, according to the researchers.

They looked at 1,192 women who had breast reduction surgery between 1999 and 2009 and found that the post-surgery infection rate for women over 50 was 2.7 times higher than for those under 40.

Women over 50 also had a higher rate of wound-healing problems, leading to a higher rate of repeat surgery to remove areas of dead skin (debridement), the Johns Hopkins researchers found, but that increased risk was not statistically significant.

They also discovered that older women were less likely to have post-surgery infections if they were using hormone replacement therapy, while infection rates were higher in those who had undergone hysterectomy or removal of the ovaries. Both procedures result in large decreases in hormone levels.

The study appears in the December issue of the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

The findings indicate that age is a factor in assessing the risk of complications after breast reduction surgery, the researchers said in a news release from the journal. They added that doctors should ask women considering breast reduction about any factors that could affect their hormone levels, and that hormone replacement therapy may be worth considering in women with reduced hormone levels.

More information

The National Institutes of Health has more about breast reduction.

SOURCE: Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, news release, Nov. 21, 2011

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