How do I prepare for breast reconstruction?
Your surgeon will provide thorough preoperative instructions, answer any questions you may have before your surgery, take a detailed medical history, and perform a physical exam to determine your fitness for surgery.
In advance of your procedure, your surgeon may ask you to:
- Follow the instructions given to you at your preoperative appointment. These will likely include having blood tests, a chest x-ray, and an electrocardiogram (ECG).
- Stop smoking before undergoing surgery to promote better healing.
- Avoid taking aspirin, certain anti-inflammatory drugs, and some herbal medications that can cause increased bleeding.
- Hydrate before and after surgery for safe recovery.
How do I prepare for my breast reconstruction recovery?
In addition to physical preparation, you should also prepare for your transition home from the hospital. Many women feel anxious before surgery. Getting your house in order, and enlisting friends and family to help you care for children and help with household chores can help you relax. The most important thing is to get plenty of rest after surgery. Knowing everything is taken care of in advance will give you the peace of mind you need.
Prepare Your Home
- You will not be able to lift heavy items after your surgery and should plan accordingly. For many flap reconstructions, your restrictions may include not lifting anything heavier than five pounds for up to six weeks.
- You should plan meals in advance or have friends assist you with your meals.
- For several weeks after surgery, you should not vacuum or do laundry, and you should avoid repetitive motion, such as scrubbing pots and pans.
- Set up your bed before your surgery. You will need a lot of pillows on your bed, including extra pillows to put behind your back and under your legs, and keep you in a position with your hips and knees flexed. You may want soft pillows for under your arms as well.
- Set up your bedside table before your surgery. Your bedside table you should have (within arm's reach), a handheld mirror, Bacitracin or Aquaphor ointment, your phone and charger, antibiotics, pain medication, the TV remote and a few good magazines or books.
- In the bathroom, store the measuring cups your doctor gives you to empty your drains into and keep a pad and pen to write down the volume the drains put out every time you empty them.
- You will probably see your doctor weekly until all drains are removed.
Prepare Your Clothing
- Shop for and wash your recovery clothing ahead of time and bring these items to the hospital.
- Since you won’t be able to pull a shirt over your head, have soft, oversized button-down shirts or a front zipper sweatshirt on hand. Sweatshirts with pockets on the insides are great for pinning or tucking surgical drains into.
- If you're having TRAM (abdominal muscle) flap reconstruction or any abdominal microsurgery, you may want to purchase loose-fitting pants that do not have an elastic waistband, as that may pull on your scar. Get oversized cotton snap-down pants, a size or two too big. You can pin or tuck the hip drains into your pants pockets.
- You may find it uncomfortable to bend over to put on shoes. Wear a slip-on mule, clog, or sandal with a grip on the sole.
Prepare Your Transportation Home From the Hospital
- You will be more comfortable in a sedan than getting in and out of an SUV.
- Bring pillows to support your back and neck, especially if you have a long drive home. You can use a pillow to press against your abdomen when you laugh, cough, sneeze, or when you put the seat belt on.
Breast reconstruction is usually an outpatient procedure, but may require an overnight stay at the hospital. Be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery and to stay with you at least the first night following your release.
What can I expect the day of my breast reconstruction?
Be sure to consult with your surgeon before your surgery so you have the most accurate expectations.
- You may have your breast reconstruction surgery in an accredited hospital, free-standing ambulatory facility, or office-based surgical suite.
- Breast reconstruction procedures typically take at least two to six hours to complete but may take longer.
- The surgeon will administer medications for your comfort during the procedure.
- General anesthesia is common for breast reconstruction procedures. In some instances, the surgeon will use local anesthesia or intravenous sedation too.
- For your safety during the surgery, various monitors will be used to check your heart, blood pressure, pulse, and the amount of oxygen circulating in your blood.
- Your surgeon will follow the surgical plan discussed with you before surgery.
- After your surgery, you will go to a recovery area for continued monitoring.
- You can expect to feel groggy, tired, disoriented and possibly nauseous (common side effects of the anesthesia).
You likely can go home after an observation period unless you and your aesthetic plastic surgeon have made other plans for your immediate postoperative recovery.
What can I expect if I’m getting breast implants?
- After your surgeon inserts and places the breast implants, they will use sutures to close the surgical incisions.
- Many surgeons will wrap your chest area with a gauze bandage or dress you in a surgical compression bra to provide support and assist with healing.
- You may need to have drainage tubes for a short time following surgery.