Many patients are diligent about preparing for breast surgery: they research their options, research their surgeon, schedule consultations, and follow preparation instructions to the letter. But often patients look at the procedure itself as the “finish line” and don’t give much thought to what happens after the procedure. Whether you’re having breast reconstruction, breast augmentation, or breast reduction, it’s important to have realistic expectations for your surgical results and the recovery period, so I’ve simplified the information and provided a quick guide of what you need to know about recovering from breast surgery.
What to expect after breast augmentation
Recovering from breast augmentation surgery is generally manageable. I’ve found that within 3-4 days after the procedure, most patients can comfortably perform about 80% of their usual day-to-day activities. As many patients would expect, the last piece of recovery is typically the ability to perform physical exercise. While I encourage most patients to begin taking walks for exercise around 1 week after their surgery, most women are not ready for higher-impact activities (such as jogging or running) until between 3 weeks and 6 weeks post-surgery.
The risk of complications from a breast augmentation is very low, but it is still important to be aware of the risks so that you can identify if there is a concern. One potential complication is called capsular contracture. Any time there is a foreign object in the body, our bodies build a scar capsule around it. Capsular contracture occurs when this scar capsule hardens and gives the breast an unnaturally firm feel. Another complication to look for is implant malposition, in which the implant shifts out of position.
What to expect after breast reduction
After breast reduction surgery, most patients can expect to be returning to work and performing most of their day-to-day activities within 1-2 weeks post-surgery. However, patients are typically advised to minimize physical activity for 2-4 weeks, and may also be instructed to wear surgical bras (specially designed bras for post-breast reduction patients) for about a month after the procedure.
Many patients ask whether a reduced ability to breastfeed may be a complication of breast reduction surgery (as well as breast augmentation surgery), but breastfeeding issues occur in a very small percentage of breast surgery patients. It’s also important to keep in mind that breast fluctuations that accompany pregnancy and breastfeeding can affect the longevity of your surgical results.
What to expect after breast reconstruction
Breast reconstruction after mastectomy is a highly varied procedure because patients’ needs differ widely. For example, some patients require a full reconstruction of one breast or both breasts, while others simply require partial reconstruction of a breast that has been deformed due to a lumpectomy. Even among patients who require similar reconstructions, there are numerous options regarding what type of tissue or implant is used and how exactly the procedure is performed. These varied procedural techniques can significantly vary the recovery expectations (healing can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 weeks), so it is vital to discuss your options in your consultation and to understand the differences between the procedure before making your decision.
Breast revision surgery
No matter how well-planned and well-orchestrated a breast surgery is, there is always the possibility of needing future revisions. Breast revision surgery may be performed to rectify complications that have arisen after the initial surgery, such as ruptured implants, capsular contracture, or implant malposition after a breast augmentation, or future fluctuations in breast size after breast reduction. Or, some women simply choose to have their breasts adjusted. Many factors can cause a patient to desire a breast revision, from experiencing changes to her results due to pregnancy or weight fluctuations, to simply a changing opinion on what type of breasts best complement her body.
For any breast surgery patient, it is important to have the appropriate balance of preparing for all the possibilities involved in recovery and reminding oneself that recovery is likely to go very smoothly so you can soon be enjoying breasts that are better aligned with your body and your self-image. The best way to ensure a successful surgery and recovery is to work with a highly-qualified plastic surgeon. This is especially true when considering the new and popular fat transfer technique, often using platelet rich plasma (described to the patient as stem cells) as well, to increase breast size. While this is a rather simple procedure, it is sometimes offered by doctors who are not qualified. Before any cosmetic procedure, it is vital to ensure that it will be performed by a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon who has admitting privileges at a reputable hospital in the case of any complications. To take the first step toward your breast surgery, schedule an appointment or join me, board-certified Atlanta plastic surgeon Dr. Franklyn Elliott, on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.