Breast Reduction: The Recovery Time Line

Breast reduction, just as its counterpart, breast augmentation, is a very popular and relatively safe surgical operation. Though not involving any major organs or blood vessels, it is considered major surgery because the operation is performed under general anesthesia and the patient requires time to recover.

What to Expect After the Operation

Swelling and bruising around the breast areas is normal. This edema and discoloration will eventually vanish within a few weeks. If there is any itching or dryness, a skin moisturizer will help, but avoid contact with the sutures. Your doctor will have detailed post-op instructions for you on your last pre-op office visit. Until then, here’s some information in advance on what you can expect.

The First Day After Surgery

Some pain and sensations will be felt in the traumatized areas as the anesthesia wears off. Your doctor will provide you with pain medication should the pain become intense. Extreme care must be used while the body begins its healing process.

  • Limited Physical Activity
  • No Lifting Children or Heavy Objects
  • No Sexual or Arousal Activity
  • Stay Home Up to 2 Weeks
  • No Showers or Baths

Two to Three Days Later

The patient is fitted with a special surgical front-access bra which is applied right over the dressings. This will be worn for several weeks. Often, thin tubes are inserted in each breast for a day or two for the drainage of blood and fluids. Use only sponge baths until the sutures are removed, usually 7-10 days later.

One to Two Weeks Later

Unless the doctor has used dissolvable sutures, the sutures will be removed. This will be your first observation of your breast reduction surgery. Do not expect too much from your breasts at this time. Swelling, bruising and discoloration are normal and will subside in time. With the stitches out, normal bathing can resume, but be gentle.

One to Two Months Later

Sexual activity can return to normal with caution used in contact with the breasts. Breasts may enlarge and be more tender during the first menstrual period after the surgery. Many women continue to feel pain, itchiness or even numbness in the breast and nipple for the next few months, as the damaged tissues return to normal. As these sensations subside, it is common for the breasts to remain sensitive.

Scarring Depends on the Type of Incision

The types of incisions used in your breast reduction surgery is determined according to your breast proportions, your doctor’s preference and yours. You can still wear revealing low-cut tops and bikini swimwear-- just realize that some scarring is inevitable. This is determined by three main incision types:

Traditional Incision

Resembling an anchor, this incision results in the most scarring of the techniques. An incision begins under the breast, traveling vertically upward and around the areola of the nipple. This method allows the doctor the easiest access for the removal of breast tissues.

Vertical Incision

This incision starts from the crease under the breast and travels vertically upward to and around the areola. In some cases, enough breast tissue can be removed this way eliminating the traditional horizontal incision under the breast.

Liposuction Incision

The preferred “scarless” method that all candidates wish they were qualified for. It requires only an incision large enough to insert the liposuction tube.

Monitor your condition by taking your temperature daily. A temperature over 98.6 or your normal reading may indicate an infection. Report this, or any unusual symptoms such as bleeding, discharge or excessive pain to your doctor or any licensed physician immediately.

Remember, it can take up to a year for the swelling of the breast tissues to return to normal and the final outcome of the surgery to become apparent. So, just follow your post-op instructions, be patient and let nature take its course.

The Haworth Institute
Dr. Randal Haworth

Beverly Hills, CA
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