Having a successful recovery after breast surgery

Having a successful recovery after breast surgery

17th Sep 2019



Plastic surgery performed on the breasts can come in many forms, depending on the imperfection that we are trying to correct. For breasts that are overly developed, we have the breast reduction surgery that aims to reduce their size and make them more proportionate to the rest of the body. For underdeveloped breasts, we have implants or fat transfer to give more volume to the breasts. Even saggy and droopy breasts can be corrected with the help of a breast lift. 

These procedures should only be performed by experienced, board-certified plastic surgeons to get the best results possible and have a smooth and short recovery period. Each procedure is followed by a two-week recovery period. During this time, the patient is advised to follow certain instructions, take certain medications,  resume daily activities slowly and gradually.

Having a successful recovery after breast surgery entails a certain level of care and dedication from the patient, as well as a list of instructions given by the plastic surgeon and followed to the letter by the patient. In this article, we will discuss more details about breast surgery and having a successful recovery after this type of procedure. 


How is breast surgery performed?

There are different types of procedures performed on the breasts to enhance their appearance. The surgical plan is different for each procedure, and even when the same procedure is performed on different patients. Plastic surgery is highly customizable and should always take into consideration the physical characteristics of the patient and her goals and expectations from the procedure. 

In a vast majority of cases, breast surgery is performed with the patient under general anesthesia. This type of anesthesia is preferred by both plastic surgeons and patients as it is more comfortable for the patient, especially if the procedure is estimated to last more than an hour. In special conditions, breast surgery can also be performed using spinal anesthesia.

After the patient receives the general anesthesia and falls asleep, the plastic surgeon will proceed with making the incisions. Depending on the procedure and the goals of the surgery, the incisions can be placed in different areas of the breasts. For implants, the incisions can be made around the areola, in the axilla, or in the fold under the breasts. For breast reduction and breast lift, incisions are often placed around the areola, vertically from the areola’s edge towards the inframammary fold, and in the inframammary fold. For lipofilling, incisions will be placed both on the donor areas and on the breasts, but they are often no longer than 3 to 4 mm and difficult to notice if the patient has a good cicatrization process.

After the incisions are made, the plastic surgeon will continue creating the pockets for the implants (breast implant surgery), eliminating a part of the mammary gland (breast reduction) or centering the glandular tissue on an anatomically correct position on the chest wall (breast lift). The incisions are then sutured and compression dressings are applied, and the patient is moved to recovery.


The recovery period after breast surgery

The recovery period after breast surgery starts as soon as the procedure is completed and often lasts for no longer than two weeks. During this time, the patient needs to follow certain rules to have a successful recovery and speed up the healing process. 

The return home from the medical facility takes place the same day of the procedure if no complications occur. The patient needs to have someone like a friend or a family member to drive her home after the hospitalization period is over. This means that the patient will get off the bed and move as soon as possible after recovering from the effects of the general anesthetic. This is beneficial for a fast recovery process as it helps the metabolism resume normal functioning and also helps prevent a severe complication, which is the formation of a blood clot.

Pain and discomfort can be experienced especially during the first few days after surgery, whatever procedure was performed. This is a natural response of the body to the trauma that occurred on the tissues during the operation. Pain and discomfort are normal, and the plastic surgeon will prescribe pain medication to alleviate the pain and help the patient have a smooth recovery process. When the pain is kept under control, it will be easier for the patient to move around. 

A responsible and experienced plastic surgeon will also recommend antibiotics to be taken for five days after surgery. Antibiotics don’t have a curative purpose, but a preventive one. They are prescribed with the aim of avoiding an infection that could occur within the first two weeks post-op. An infection at this stage in the recovery process could considerably delay it, not to mention the possibility of triggering other severe complications. The most obvious signs of infection are high fever, intense pain, pus coming from the incision site, and redness in the operated area. If you notice any or many of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical assistance immediately.

The occurrence of an infection is rare after breast surgery; however, we often insist on patients having someone stay with them in the house for a day or two after the procedure. This person should provide assistance during this time and also help patients get medical help in case of excessive bleeding, infection, or other severe complication. 

Keep in mind that most of the side effects that occur within the first few days post-op will disappear, and the risk of developing a complication gets significantly smaller in the second week post-op. However, the swelling and bruising will still be present, and the patient is advised to wear the special post-op bra or a good quality sports bra to reduce the swelling and speed up the recovery. The compression bra has the role of supporting the breasts, and compression helps with swelling. Moreover, if implants are used, they need more support than before, so the bra is mandatory. The results of breast surgery are better for patients wearing the post-op bra for as long as the plastic surgeon recommends it compared to patients who don’t wear the compressive bra.

Having a successful recovery after breast surgery is also about avoiding sleeping or resting on the tummy. Any unnecessary pressure on the breasts needs to be avoided for a minimum of three weeks, preferably more. The plastic surgeon will tell you when you can resume sleeping on the tummy if this is what you prefer. 

Intense physical activities are another thing that needs to be avoided for a minimum of four to six weeks post-op. Work can often be resumed two weeks after the surgery, but if the job responsibilities also include demanding physical activities, you should discuss your return to work with the plastic surgeon before proceeding. 

Having a successful recovery after breast surgery is easy if the patient is committed to following the recommendations received from the plastic surgeon to the letter and avoid any activities that could trigger complications.



The recovery period after plastic surgery is just as important as having a talented, experienced and board-certified plastic surgeon to play out your procedure. Generally speaking, during the first two weeks following a breast surgery, many severe complications can occur if the patient is not committed to following certain strict recommendations. Having a successful recovery after breast surgery requires taking the medication prescribed by the plastic surgeon, having a balanced and healthy diet, avoiding intense physical activities, and not sleeping on the tummy. Even something as simple as lifting your arms above the shoulders should be avoided for four weeks after the surgery, just to be on the safe side. The opening of the incisions caused by intense pressure on the breasts can trigger other complications that could otherwise be avoided. 

Make sure to discuss all the details of the recovery period with the plastic surgeon and also ask his advice for making this period more comfortable and smooth for your particular case. 



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