Planning for Reconstruction

Recovering From the Surgery

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You've completed your reconstruction surgery. Now help your body heal during the recovery phase.

Rest is essential. You will probably feel fatigued and sore – which is common, especially if you’ve had reconstruction with implants – and you may experience a feeling of tightness in the breast area as your skin adjusts. Your plastic surgeon may also recommend breast massage exercises to help alleviate this. You may need to wear special post-reconstruction breast and chest garments while you recover. Your surgeon will provide you with more specific details about the recovery process. Should any problems occur after your operation, contact your doctor immediately. An important note: If you experience fever or noticeable swelling and/or redness in your breast(s), you should contact your doctor immediately.

What effect does smoking have on the healing process after an operation?

  • Some plastic surgeons or breast surgeons may not operate on a smoker, because it can negatively affect the healing process after an operation.
  • Smoking produces nicotine and carbon monoxide, which can cause the blood vessels in your skin to constrict, resulting in poor wound healing.
  • In the setting of a tissue expander, skin on the breast may be compromised and could result in loss of the tissue expander.
  • TRAM flaps in particular may be more likely to have complications in smokers, such as fat necrosis.

How long should I wait to resume exercise after a breast implant operation?

  • Work closely with your doctor on when you can go back to work and when and how to resume other activities. Recovery periods vary from woman to woman.
  • It is important not to sweat into the incision while it is healing. Therefore, curtail activity and sun tanning until after the incision has healed and sealed. Don’t overdo activity too early, especially with the upper body. Let your body rest and heal. You want to minimise swelling around the implant.
  • Be sure you check with your doctor before returning to your workouts. Patients vary greatly in recovery times. Walking is generally recommended to encourage circulation. The larger the implant you receive, the heavier the breast(s) will be. You should wear good support bras while running to minimise pull on the skin and ptosis (drooping) of the breast.

When can I fly and/or scuba dive?

  • Once fully recovered, you can feel free to scuba dive and fly in airplanes with some minor considerations, since there may be slight expansion and contraction of the shell with changes in pressure.
  • With Saline-filled Implants, this may result in a minimal amount of air bubbles in the implant, and you may feel or hear fluid sounds (gurgling). This should correct itself within 24 to 48 hours.

When can I wear an underwire bra again?

  • Most doctors ask that women wait 3 months before wearing underwire bras after an implant operation. Your body will be forming scar tissue around the implant for during this time and the pressure of the wires could cause the scar tissue to form in such a way that an indentation from the wires could become permanent. After this initial healing time, underwire bras should be worn intermittently to avoid permanent indentation.
  • You may need to wear a postoperative bra, compression bandage or jog bra for extra support and positioning while you heal.

If I experience a problem, should I report it?

  • Should any problems occur after your operation, contact your physician immediately.
  • An important note: If you experience fever, or noticeable swelling and/or redness in your breast(s), you should contact your doctor immediately.

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