Your surgeon will discuss how long it will be before you can return to your normal level of activity and work. After surgery, you and your caregiver will receive detailed instructions about your postsurgical care, including information about:
- Drains, if they have been placed
- Normal symptoms you will experience
- Potential signs of complication
Immediately after your breast reduction surgery
- If you’ve had general anesthesia, you might wake up feeling disoriented.
- You will have a surgical dressing over your upper chest and will probably have drains coming from each breast.
- You may have compression sleeves on your legs to help with circulation
- You will feel discomfort, but your medication will keep you from feeling pain.
- After the hospital staff observes you for a few hours it is likely that you will be allowed to go home, where you will need someone to care for you for the next few days.
- Before the hospital or surgical center releases you, they will show you how to care for your incisions, instructing you on how frequently to change the bandages and how to empty your drainage tubes.
- When the anesthesia wears off, you may have some pain. Any discomfort can be controlled with pain medication. If the pain is extreme or lasts long, contact your physician.
- You might notice a change in breast size, but at this point you will have significant swelling. In most cases, this swelling will remain for weeks or even months.
When the anesthesia wears off, you may have some pain. If the pain is extreme or long-lasting, contact your physician. You will also have some redness and swelling after the surgery. Contact your surgeon to find out if your pain, redness and swelling are normal or are signs of a problem.
Recovery time frame after breast reduction
It is vitally important that you follow all patient care instructions provided by your surgeon. This will include information about wearing compression garments, care of your drains, taking an antibiotic if prescribed and the level and type of activity that is safe. Your surgeon will also provide detailed instructions about the normal symptoms you will experience and any potential signs of complications. It is important to realize that the amount of time it takes for recovery varies greatly among individuals.
Here is a general idea of what you can anticipate:
- Drains. Your drains will more than likely be removed at your first follow-up appointment, which is usually within the first week after surgery.
- Incision care. Keep your incisions/suture line dry. Your surgeon may have placed Steri-Strips on top of your incision line and sutures, or you may have sutures internally and tissue glue externally to bind your incision edges. Either way, your surgeon will give you specific care instructions at your preoperative appointment or send them home with you the day of your surgery. It is best to understand it all beforehand so that your spouse, friend or caretaker will understand and assist you instead of having to learn the routine at the last minute. Be careful not to get creams, lotions or topical Arnica into the incision, because these can cause inflammation.
- Suture removal. Your incision sites will be checked and your stitches removed in approximately ten days.
- Monitoring your temperature. While you are healing from breast reduction, take your temperature regularly. An elevated temperature could mean an infection.
- Soreness and pain. You will feel tender, stiff and sore for a few days and will more than likely not want to move too much. This will subside. Be sure to take your required medications and follow the precise instructions provided by your surgeon. You may be given a pain pump; pain pumps deliver pain medications directly to the area of treatment and effectively relieve discomfort without making you groggy. Not all surgeons offer this option, so be sure to ask about it.
- Swelling. As with all surgeries, swelling will be an issue. You may be swollen for up to three to four months, although this could be very slight and only noticed by you. Your breasts, of course, will be smaller than they were before and higher, so you may not notice swelling too much. Treatment for prolonged swelling includes increasing your fluid intake (preferably water), having normal to low sodium intake, and movement, such as light walking.
- Bruising. Bruises may or may not be present after your surgery. This depends entirely on the patient, the technique used, and the effectiveness of the epinephrine that was administered during surgery. Other common side effects during recovery include numbness or changes in nipple sensitivity, itching around incision sites, and increased firmness or fullness in the breast tissue. These side effects should subside over the next few weeks, with some residual effects lasting up to three months after surgery.
- Sleeping. It is important to sleep with at least two or three fluffy pillows under your upper back and head, or on a wedge pillow or a recliner chair, to keep your torso elevated. This helps relieve pressure on your treatment area, reducing swelling and pain. Many patients place a pillow under their knees to prevent rolling over during the night. They also place pillows alongside them to create a sort of recovery nest.
- Bathing. You may be asked to take sponge baths until your incisions are completely closed and your sutures are no longer in place. You may not be able to wash your hair for a while, because you will not be allowed to raise your hands over your head. If you must wash your hair, have a friend assist you in the sink or basin or with a handheld showerhead.
- Activity. Even though you may not feel like it, your surgeon will probably advise you to walk and move around as soon as you can to prevent blood clots and swelling. You will be instructed not to exercise or engage in strenuous activities for at least three to four weeks. Don’t lift anything over five pounds and try not to raise anything over your head until your surgeon releases you for activity. Take your time in healing so that you give yourself the best healing environment possible. Your full range of motion should return between six to ten weeks, depending on how well you have healed. Within six months, you should be able to do all those things you wanted to do but couldn’t because of your oversized chest.