This breast surgery recovery guide is available as a booklet for clients who are having breast augmentation (breast implant) as well as other breast surgery at PPSI.
The booklet has been reproduced here as an online reference for clients and to provide information about your recovery period and answer frequently asked questions related to your breast implant surgery.
Walk around as soon as you are able while recovering from breast augmentation surgery. This will help prevent blood clots and can also help relieve swelling. Do not engage in strenuous activities, or exercise, for at least three to four weeks after your surgery. You should plan to avoid activities which require much raising of the arms above the level of the head for 10 days after surgery. With great care, you can drive about 7 days after surgery. Patients can usually return to work in a few days unless their occupation requires any particularly strenuous movements and lifting. In such cases, 3-4 weeks should be allowed.
Follow your surgeon’s instructions regarding massage of your implants. In some cases the recommendation may be light massage or no massage at all. When doing massage, remember to move your implant in all the four quadrants using a slow steady movement.
In the days and weeks right after your surgery, your breasts will be quite firm and will sit high up on your chest. Don’t worry. They will soften up and will drop. Remember, the breast on your dominant side (your right side, if you are right-handed) may not drop as fast as the breast on your non-dominant side. In the weeks and months following your breast augmentation procedure, your breasts may appear “off” in shape or position. They also may feel itchy or sensitive. This is because your skin has been stretched over the implants, making your breasts very firm and high. The full results of your breast augmentation won’t be seen completely for many weeks, so be patient.
Your surgeon may have placed one or more drains in your incision to remove excess fluid. (The fluid may be pinkish or brownish.) These thin plastic tubes may be left in place overnight after surgery. There may be a little irritation around the edges of the incision due to the drain
After the surgery the surgeon will place waterproof plasters over your incision sites. Keep your incisions/suture line dry. If the plaster should get wet or start to peel off we recommend that you contact the PPSI office to make an appointment to have the wounds cleaned and redressed.
It is important not to sweat into the incision while it is healing. Therefore curtail activity and sun tanning until after the incision is healed and sealed. Don’t over-do activity, especially of the upper body, too early. Let your body rest and heal. You want to minimize swelling around the implant. Do not get your incision wet between the time of your surgery and until the stitches have been removed.
All breast augmentation techniques will leave a permanent scar behind, which is meant to be as inconspicuous as possible after healing. Though uncommon, extensive scarring is a possible complication of breast augmentation. Remember that your scars will get worse before they get better. Your incision will heal, but scars go through a series of changes before they are completely healed and that can take months. Scarring is the result of the body’s attempt to heal the site of a cut, burn, or other wound. When the body heals from injury it produces an overabundance of collagen, which forms a scar. This production of collagen is kept in check by an enzyme aptly named collagenase that melts collagen away. During the initial healing process the interaction of these substances determine the nature and extent of scarring. Avoid direct sunlight.
Your scars will continue to refine. If they become raised, red or thickened, or appear to widen, contact your Doctor. Early intervention is important to achieving well-healed scars. Scars are generally refined to fine incision lines one year after surgery.
You will be able to shower but not swim until your incisions are closed and your sutures have been removed.
Tip: You may not be able to wash your hair for a week because you should not raise your hands over your head. Wash your hair the night before your surgery and braid it or place it in a ponytail.
You may lose some sensitivity in the nipple or the surrounding skin after breast augmentation surgery. This usually subsides within a few weeks. In rare cases, however, loss of sensation can be permanent. As sensation returns to your nipples and breasts, you may experience sharp pains, itching, heat, tingling and prickling. These temporary sensations occur because nerve function is returning.
Many women complain of very erect and sensitive nipples after breast implant surgery. You can protect your nipples by using a Band-Aid (especially the large round ones), large corn pads, or nursing pads. These pads will protect your overly sensitive nipples from the abrasiveness of your clothing and shield your erect nipples.
Do not be alarmed if you hear gurgling, buzzing, or crackling noises coming from your augmented breasts.
These noises may result from fluid build-up or air bubbles within the implant pocket. They can also be heard when the implant has not settled. This will likely pass in a few weeks.
All plastic surgery procedures carry some risk including breast implant or breast reconstruction surgery. Having your procedure done in an accredited hospital minimises your risk during a procedure. The best way to categorize risks is to divide them into the risks of having a general anaesthetic, things that can go wrong during the procedure, things that might happen in the first few weeks and things that might happen further down the track. Generally speaking, patients undergoing elective surgery have very minimal risk, provided due care and attention is attended to by your clinical care team and by you as a patient. When you are admitted to the hospital you will be provided with a consent package that details these risks, but the following is a quick list. The following is not meant to frighten you but to make you aware of the possibilities.
Because breast enlargement is a totally elective operation, you must be in good health before going ahead with the procedure. Eat healthily with plenty of fruits and vegetables, keep fit and have plenty of rest. Should you have some illness (eg the flu) before the date of the surgery, our surgeons may postpone the procedure until you have recovered fully.
During your consultation, your specialist plastic surgeon will explain all these risks, what they do to avoid and treat them, and the rates at which they occur.
All surgeries have risks, and breast augmentation is no exception. Capsular contracture occurs when scar tissue forms around the implant, resulting in painful breast stiffness and possible leakage of the fluid inside the implant. Women often fear this common complication because it is difficult to predict when it will occur and who will develop it. Most women start having symptoms around three months after their breast implant surgery, but you can develop capsular contracture at any time, and it can recur after it is treated. Capsular contracture occurs in less than 5 percent of women, and while there is no way of telling who is going to develop it, several factors may increase your risk. They include:
Warning signs of capsular contracture include deformed, misshapen, and painful breasts, or breasts that are firmer than when they were first implanted. There are four levels of capsular contracture. They include:
The recommended screening guidelines for women who have had breast augmentation with breast implants solely for cosmetic reasons are the same as those for women who do not have breast implants. Cosmetic breast augmentation with implants may make screening for breast cancer a bit more challenging, but this is not an excuse to avoid regular screening. A mammogram (breast X-ray) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can save your life, so follow your doctor’s advice regarding breast cancer detection.
Implants do not interfere with breast-feeding, but many women have had concerns about passing silicone gel into breast milk if their implants were to rupture. These fears have been allayed by science. In the early 1990s, there were reports of silicone gel leaking from implants into the body, and some women claimed that their autoimmune and connective tissue disorders were related to their implants. As a result, silicone implants were removed from the market in 1992. At the same time, fear arose that breast-feeding with silicone implants could endanger the infant. Studies have since shown that silicone molecules are too large to pass into the milk ducts and breast gland tissue. In addition, the FDA conducted numerous studies which served to exonerate silicone gel implants as a cause of disease. As a result, they returned to market in 2006. That said, there are no guarantees that you will be able to breastfeed, regardless of whether you undergo breast augmentation.
Women who have never had any kind of breast surgery may experience difficulty breast-feeding. If you do opt to have breast surgery, incision and implant placement may make a difference in terms of your ability to breast-feed. For example, in rare cases a periareolar incision (around the edge of the nipple) may interrupt or disturb the milk ducts. Placing implants below the pectoral (chest) muscle is least likely to disturb the milk duct
Discuss your plans to breast-feed with your surgeon. Your surgeon will be able to work with you to achieve the best possible aesthetic results without compromising your plans to breast-feed.