What to Expect While Recovering from Breast Surgery

Breast augmentation surgery is designed to surgically place implants to restore or increase breast volume, but it may also involve reconstruction, reduction, or revision. Many patients report that recovery is easier than they expected, but the exact recovery time will depend on several factors, including whether the implants are placed under or over the muscle and the technique the surgeon uses.

The following explains the typical recovery process that can be expected.

Timeline of Breast Surgery Recovery

Recovery time and discomfort varies by woman and depends largely on the technique used. One of the most important considerations in recovery time following breast surgery is whether the technique involves placing an implant above the pectoral muscle or below the muscle, or if implant revision surgery requires a new incision into the muscle.

Placing an implant above the muscle results in a much shorter recovery period as there are fewer movement restrictions. Placement under the muscle requires a recovery period of about two weeks, as the incision in the muscle must be allowed additional time to heal.

During the first few days, most patients experience swelling, discomfort, and some pain. It is during the first few days that most of the pain medication will be required and bruising will begin to develop.

From day four to about day ten, patients may shower and allow the wound to get wet for brief periods of time. Pain will diminish rather quickly during this period, although it tends to last longer when implants are placed below the muscle or if breast revision surgery requires cutting the muscle. Most patients will begin implant displacement exercises at this point to help prevent scar tissue and encourage the implants to settle into their final position.

From day ten onward, patients can slowly increase physical activity to low impact exercise that avoids any resistance on the upper body. It’s normal to have some numbness or a sensation of pins and needles around the nipples for the first two or three weeks.

By the third week, most patients reach a plataeu in healing and discomfort. Pain should be no more than mild discomfort at this point, which can be managed with over-the-counter medication. Exercises may slowly progress to include upper body exercise.

Easing Discomfort During Recovery

The recovery process can be made a bit easier by using plenty of pillows at night, as the upper body should remain slightly elevated during sleep to avoid swelling. The breasts can remain tender and swollen for up to a month, so it’s important to avoid any strenuous activities, including lifting anything heavy. It’s normal to feel fatigued and sore for the first week, so patients are encouraged to get as much rest as possible.

Finally, most forms of breast surgery — including augmentation, reduction, and revision surgery — often require wearing a special post-operative bra or compression bandage with offers support and maintains the correct position. It’s important to wear this garment for as long as the surgeon recommends to minimize any complications.

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