How long does it take to recover from a breast reduction?
It typically takes one to two weeks to recover from a breast reduction procedure. Your surgeon will let you know how long it will be before you can return to your normal level of activity and work. Your surgeon will also give you and your caregiver detailed instructions about your postoperative care after your surgery, including information about:
- Drains, if they have been placed
- Typical symptoms you will experience
- Potential signs of complications
See options for short-term recovery locations in Aftercare and Recovery
It is vital that you follow all the patient care instructions your surgeon provides. It is also important to know that the amount of time it takes for recovery varies greatly among individuals.
What can I expect immediately after my breast reduction?
- If you've had general anesthesia, you might wake up feeling disoriented.
- You will have a surgical dressing over your upper chest and probably have drains coming from each breast.
- You may have to wear a compression garment such as a surgical bra and compression sleeves on your legs to help your circulation.
- When the anesthesia wears off, you may experience some pain. If the pain is extreme or long-lasting, contact your surgeon.
- You might notice a change in breast size, but at this point you will have significant swelling. In most cases, this swelling will remain for several weeks or even months.
- The day after surgery, you should get out of bed for short periods of time.
- Rest and sleep on your back in an inclined position (25-to 45-degree angle) for the initial postoperative days or if you have significant swelling. Use wedge pillows with an incline design or sleep in a recliner chair.
- Decide what you will wear for the first few days; pick items that open in front. Wear slip-on shoes so you don't have to bend. Straining, bending, and lifting might cause increased swelling or even bleeding.
What can I expect during my breast reduction recovery?
- Your surgeon will likely remove your drains during your first follow-up appointment, which is usually within the first week after surgery.
- Keep your incisions/suture line dry. Your surgeon may have placed Steri-Strips on top of your incision line and sutures, or you may have sutures internally and tissue glue externally to bind your incision edges. Either way, your surgeon will give you specific care instructions at your preoperative appointment or send them home with you the day of your surgery. Be careful not to get creams, lotions or topical Arnica into the incision, because these can cause inflammation. Incisions will initially be red or pink. They will remain this way for many months following surgery.
- Your surgeon will check your incision sites and remove your stitches after approximately ten days.
- While you are healing from breast reduction, take your temperature regularly. An elevated temperature (above 101F) could mean an infection.
- Your breasts will feel tender, stiff and sore for a few days but will subside. Be sure to take your required medications and follow your surgeon’s instructions. Your surgeon may give you a pain pump to manage the main. Pain pumps deliver pain medications directly to the treatment area and effectively relieve discomfort without making you groggy. Not all surgeons offer this option, so be sure to ask about it.
- You may be swollen for up to three to four months, although this may be very slight. Your breasts will be smaller and higher than they were before, so you may not notice the swelling. To decrease prolonged swelling, increase your fluid intake (preferably water), minimize your sodium intake, and go on light walks to get your blood flowing.
- You may have bruises after your breast surgery. Bruising depends on the patient, the surgical technique, and the effectiveness of the epinephrine administered during surgery.
- Other common side effects during recovery include numbness or changes in nipple sensitivity, itching around incision sites, and increased firmness or fullness in the breast tissue. These side effects should subside over a few weeks, with some residual effects lasting up to three months after surgery.
- Sleep with at least two or three fluffy pillows under your upper back and head, or on a wedge pillow or a recliner chair, and keep your torso elevated to reduce swelling and pain. You can also place a pillow under their knees to prevent rolling over during the night.
- You may need to take sponge baths until your incisions are completely closed. You may not be able to wash your hair for a while, because you can’t raise your hands over your head. If you must wash your hair, have a friend assist you in the sink or basin or with a handheld showerhead. Avoid hot showers, hot tubs and saunas for at least two to three weeks.
- Even though you may not feel like it, your surgeon will probably advise you to walk and move around as soon as you can to prevent blood clots and swelling. However, you should not exercise or engage in strenuous physical activities for at least three to four weeks. Don't lift anything over five pounds and try not to raise anything over your head until your surgeon releases you for activity. Your full range of motion should return between six to ten weeks, depending on how well you have healed. Within six months, you should be able to do all those things you wanted to do but couldn't because of your oversized chest.