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What to Expect after Your Breast Reduction

By Brian Kobienia, MD, FACS on February 04, 2015


A woman in a bra, with proportionately sized breastsWhen it comes to breast reduction surgery, there are many valid concerns and decisions that patients must consider before the surgery even takes place. From the initial decision to undergo a breast reduction to the procedure itself, there’s a lot that patients have on their minds. In light of these concerns, though, patients should not lose sight of just how important the post-operative phase is as well; a healthy recovery is equally important to a patient’s well-being and long term results.

In order to truly enjoy the most successful results possible, we urge our patients to stay informed about the entirety of the treatment process. By knowing what to expect after your surgery, you can take the appropriate measures to limit any risks and improve your chances of a swift, uncomplicated recovery. Please keep the following points in mind as you head into recovery from breast reduction surgery. 

Immediately after Surgery

When you first arrive home from surgery, you will likely feel drowsy or light-headed from any anesthesia used during the procedure. These effects should gradually wear off in the following hours, but as they do, so too will the numbing effects of the anesthetic. You should therefore begin taking your prescribed painkilling medication as instructed by your doctor, so that you may limit any significant discomfort before it has a chance to set in. While on your medication, you will still likely feel some discomfort or soreness around your breasts, but proper rest will keep such discomfort to a minimum as you leave muscles and tissues to heal in place.

While light bleeding may continue for an hour or two after surgery, it should gradually cease throughout the day. If bleeding does not stop or if it increases after the first day, see your doctor the following day. You may also have small tubes attached to the surgical area to drain excess fluids. In this case, you will be given instructions for how and when to empty the tubes, as well as when they can be safely removed in the coming days.

Side Effects in the First Week

Breast reductions tend to result in the following side effects over the first few days of surgery, which are typical of most plastic surgery and body contouring procedures:

  • Bruising: Tissue damage and broken blood vessels around the area of surgery will likely result in some bruising. This tends to appear over the first 24 to 72 hours, possibly appearing worse when swelling begins to go down. Although the discoloration may be alarming at first, it is a natural reaction to such damage and should subside over the following days and weeks.
  • Swelling: Swelling is a common reaction to any surgery, particularly when the body has been substantially changed such as in a breast reduction. Over the first week of recovery, the breasts and chest will become stiff and swollen as the body attempts to protect the area from further damage. Over the course of recovery, this area will gradually recede back to normal.
  • Soreness: Discomfort will be at its worst over the first week, as patients begin to heal from the incisions and internal damage to tissue. During this time, rest and relaxation are important for both healing and comfort. While patients must occasionally move or stretch their legs to promote circulation, they should not engage in any lifting or strenuous activities beyond light walks.

To aid in recovery, patients may be given an elastic compression garment to wear around the surgical area for a few weeks. This garment will keep the breasts and their bandages in place, protecting them from unnecessary movement. More important, compression promotes circulation and fluid drainage, minimizing the risks of complications or irregularities during healing.

The Following Weeks and Months

The majority of bruising, swelling, and discomfort should subside over the first few weeks, at which point patients should be able to engage in most of their daily activities without incident. Heavy lifting and vigorous exercise should generally be avoided throughout the first month and until otherwise directed by your doctor. Although it may take multiple months for residual swelling to completely disappear and for scars to begin to fade, you should be able to gauge what your final results will look like after a month or two.

Some soreness may persist in the breasts for as long as a month or two after surgery, and often during menstruation, but this is generally mild and will not significantly impact your quality of life. Wearing a sports bra or a bra with good support will also increase comfort and aid in an effective recovery.

Stay Informed about Your Treatment

Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our patients. For more information on what you can expect following surgery, or to inquire about any of our plastic surgery options, contact us to schedule a consultation with Dr. Kobienia.

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