Dr. Michele A. Shermak and colleagues of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore said the increased complication rate in older women most likely reflects age-related changes in hormone levels.
The study involved 1,192 women undergoing breast reduction surgery from 1999 to 2009. The researchers assessed rates and types of complications in three different age groups: under 40, 40 to 50 and older than 50.
Breast reduction surgery -- mammaplasty -- is among the most commonly performed breast plastic surgery procedures and is highly effective in relieving symptoms related to overlarge breasts, such as back, shoulder and neck pain, posture problems and bra strap compression.
The findings, scheduled to be published in the December issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, suggest that women age 50 and older are at higher risk of developing an infection after breast reduction surgery. The infection rate was 2.7 times higher for women age 50 and older, compared to the under-40 group, the study said.
Women age 50 and older also tended to have a higher rate of wound-healing problems, leading to a higher rate of repeat surgery to remove areas of dead skin, called debridement. The trends were not statistically significant, however.