Breast Reduction Recovery: Timeline, Tips, & What To Expect
A breast reduction is an operation that simultaneously reduces the skin of the breast and lifts it to create a natural, youthful and lighter appearance. It is performed under general anesthesia. The process of recovering from breast reduction is different for everyone, and it depends upon several factors. Your genetics, personal tolerance for pain, type of surgical technique performed, and the amount of breast tissue to be removed all play a role in how quickly your recovery will be.
This article relays a typical breast reduction surgery recovery experience. The better prepared you are for a mindful at-home recovery, the quicker you will heal. Proper healing will also allow you to achieve the best result possible after surgery.
Breast Reduction Recovery Timeline
1-3 Days Post-Surgery
After returning home following surgery, you will be wearing sterile dressings and a surgical bra to protect your incisions and stitches. I do not routinely use drains for breast reductions. Swelling following surgery will be the most significant at this time and over the next few days, which can cause some discomfort. You can also expect to feel tired and sleepy following a general anesthetic and surgery in general. You may shower 48 hours after your surgery.
Be sure to pay attention to your postoperative instructions during this time. You will have received prescription pain medication, antibiotics, and instructions on how to care for your incisions. Movement will be difficult, so it is a good idea to enlist a friend or family member to help you bathe and change your bandages during these first few days.
1-2 Week Post-Surgery
Between 5-14 days after your surgery, you may still feel tired, particularly if you are taking narcotic pain medication. Allow yourself to rest as much as needed, but be sure to continue walking small distances frequently. Your body is healing, which takes a lot of energy. During this time period, you will notice your swelling begins to subside, although bruising may remain.
I use absorbable sutures only for breast reductions and will trim any visible suture “tails” at this appointment. At the two week mark, you will begin silicone sheeting or gel treatments to help your scars heal as finely as possible. Be mindful of how you move and avoid lifting heavy objects.
2-4 Weeks Post Surgery
Between two and four weeks, you will be returning to your normal activities, although some movements may cause minor discomfort. It is not uncommon to have itching as your incisions heal. Swelling should be noticeably reduced. You still need to remain in a soft bra without an underwire.
During this time, you will be cleared to resume most of your normal daily activities. Keep avoiding strenuous activity, especially in the area of your chest.
4-6 Weeks Post Surgery:
After a full month of healing your energy will have returned, and you should feel comfortable resuming all typical daily activities. If you had dissolvable stitches, they will likely be gone by now.
Around this time your doctor will give you permission to resume exercise or to soak in a bath, and it should be ok to return to your favorite underwire bra. By six weeks, you will feel comfortable sleeping on your stomach or your side, and much more confident about strength and range of motion in your chest.
Pain and Breast Reductions
Incisional pain is normal immediately after breast reduction surgery, however most patients seeking a reduction for back or neck pain will feel an immediate sense of relief once the weight is literally removed off their chest.
Understand the side effects of anesthesia and your pain medications. It is normal to experience some nausea in the first few days as you recover. Stay ahead of your pain by taking medications at the earliest onset of pain, and not when you are experiencing pain at its peak. Most people are able to reduce or stop their pain medication between three to seven days after surgery.
Scarring and Breast Reductions
Scarring will occur with all incisions; however skilled plastic surgeons utilize meticulous technique to minimize the visibility and appearance of post-surgical scarring. Most scars will be fine and fade over time. Some risk factors for scarring cannot be controlled, such as your genetics, your age, or the color of your skin. If you have scars from other surgeries or accidents, you can gain a sense of how your body typically forms scars.
There are, however, some instructions you can follow to reduce the appearance of scars:
- Eat a healthy, protein-rich diet to provide the necessary building blocks to heal your incisions
- Avoid activities that place stress on your incisions, which can widen them
- Follow all post-procedure care orders carefully when it comes to wound care
- Utilize silicone gel or sheeting following surgery to minimize scar tissue formation
- Consider post-procedure scar treatments once you are healed
Additional Tips for a Speedy Breast Reduction Recovery
- Have a trusted helper with you for the first 24-48 hours
- Get plenty of rest and sleep
- Avoid lifting heavy things for 2 weeks. Lift nothing overhead for 3-4 weeks
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
- Avoid inflammatory foods that are high in salt or sugar
- Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol on your incisions
- Begin easy movement, such as walking, as soon as you can
Finally, make sure you have a great relationship with your plastic surgeon, who can answer all your questions in advance of and after surgery so you know what to expect. Armed with this information, you can rest easy knowing you are taking appropriate care and precautions while you are recovering to maximize your surgical result.