Could you talk us through what patients can expect during the 48 hours following surgery?
Patients can expect to have some discomfort for the first 48 hours which is managed with oral pain medication and avoidance of activities that involve the chest or arms. The level of discomfort after breast augmentation depends largely on the surgical technique performed. The location of the scar, the method of dissecting the pocket, and where the implant is placed can all effect the level of soreness after surgery. The planned technique and amount of expected discomfort should be discussed with your surgeon preoperatively. There is usually very little wound care or dressing changes needed. This can vary from surgeon to surgeon and post-operative instructions should be followed. I allow my patients to shower the next day. Once the bandages are removed, patients are instructed to keep the area clean and dry. Importantly, the post-surgical support garment should be worn at all times. The breasts will be swollen and the post-surgical garment helps to support the breasts which can reduce pain.
- Are there any particular elements of the recovery process that your patients tend to struggle with?
Yes. Patients often want to know when they can get back to exercising. I recommend cessation of any activity that increases the heart rate for two weeks and no high-impact activities for 4-6 weeks. Patients also like to know when they can buy new bras and tops. I have my patients wait 6 weeks (or when cleared by me) before purchasing new clothes. This is because as the swelling subsides, the breasts will continue to change in shape and size.
- In terms of the cosmetic appearance of recovery, could you give an idea of the timeline for swelling, bruising, and scarring to heal?
Expect the breasts to be swollen for 4-6 weeks. The majority of the swelling and bruising should resolve in 2 weeks. Taking homeopathic supplements such as arnica and bromelain can reduce the amount and extent of swelling. Scarring is very individualistic but typically takes 6-12 months for the scar to fully mature (fade, soften, etc.) Proper scar care (keeping the wound clean, avoiding the sun, silicone treatments) can optimize the appearance of the scar.
- How is pain managed during recovery? Are there any activities that should be avoided to keep pain to a minimum? If so, how long should they be avoided for?
Pain is generally managed by a multi-modal approach. I typically use long-acting nerve blocks to decrease pain medication requirements immediately after surgery. Oral pain medication is used as needed, and usually only needed for a week or less. Any activity that raises the heart rate should be avoided for 2 weeks after surgery. Any heavy lifting, pushing, pulling should also be avoided during this time frame. Wearing comfortable, easy to put on and remove clothing (think: zip-ups) also makes life easier after breast augmentation surgery.
- Do you have any tips or pieces of advice for patients considering having a breast augmentation that could make their recovery more comfortable?
Yes - plan for your recovery period. This means having comfortable clothing that is easy to put on and take off. Have a back-up supportive bra after surgery. The post-surgical garment can get soiled and it is much more comfortable to have a clean, second bra to wear while the other is in the wash. Pick up your supplements and prescriptions ahead of time and have them ready to go for the car ride home. Arrange for help if you have small children or pets that depend on you for the first week after surgery. Lastly, prepare foods that are low in sodium for the post-surgery time frame. Salt causes fluid retention and can worsen and prolong post-operative swelling. You may not feel like cooking after surgery and having healthy, pre-made meals to eat will save you from salty takeout.