You had cosmetic breast surgery to change the size or shape of your breasts. You probably were under general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free). Or you may have had local anesthesia (awake and, pain-free). Your surgery took at least 1 or up to several hours, depending on the type of procedure you had.
You woke up with a gauze dressing or surgical bra around your breast and chest area. You may also have drainage tubes coming from your incision areas. Some pain and swelling is normal after the anesthesia wears off. You may also feel tired. Rest and gentle movement will help you recover. Your nurse will help you begin to move around.
You may spend 1 to 2 days in the hospital, depending on the type of surgery you had.
What to Expect at Home
It is normal to have pain, bruising, and swelling of the breast or incisions after you get home. Within a few days or weeks, these symptoms will go away. You may have a loss of sensation in your breast skin and nipples after surgery. Sensation may return over time.
You may need help with your everyday activities for a few days until your pain and swelling decrease.
Incision scars may take several months to over a year to fade.
While you are healing, limit your physical activities so that you do not stretch your incisions. Try taking short walks as soon as possible to promote blood flow and healing. You may be able to do some activity 1 to 2 days after surgery.
Your health care provider may show you special exercises and breast-massaging techniques. Do these at home if your provider has recommended them.
Ask your provider when you can go back to work or start other activities. You may need to wait 7 to 14 days or even longer.
Do not do any heavy lifting, strenuous exercise, or overstretching your arms for 3 to 6 weeks.
Do not drive for at least 2 weeks. Do not drive if you are taking narcotic pain medicines. You should have full range of motion in your arms before you start driving again. Ease into driving slowly, since turning the wheel and shifting gears may be difficult.
Drainage tubes may be removed in 2 to 3 days. Any stitches will be removed within 2 weeks after surgery. Your incisions may be covered with surgical glue. The glue does not need to be removed and will wear off.
Keep the dressings or adhesive strips on your incisions for as long as your doctor told you to. Make sure you have extra bandages in case you need them.
Keep the incision areas clean, dry, and covered. Check daily for signs of infection (redness, pain, or drainage).
Once you no longer need dressings, wear a soft, wireless, supportive bra night and day for 2 to 4 weeks.
You may shower after 2 days (if your drainage tubes have been removed). Do not take baths, soak in a hot tub, or go swimming until stitches and drains are removed and your doctor says it is okay.
Protect your scars from the sun for a year with a strong sunblock (SPF 30 or higher) whenever you are out in the sun.
Make sure you eat healthy foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables. Drink plenty of fluids. A healthy diet and plenty of fluids promote bowel movements and prevent infection.
Your pain should go away over several weeks. Take any pain medicines as your health care provider told you to. Take them with food and plenty of water. Do not apply ice or heat to your breasts unless your doctor tells you that it is okay.
Do not drink alcohol while you are taking pain medicines. Do not take aspirin, aspirin-containing, or ibuprofen without your doctor's approval. Ask your doctor which vitamins, supplements, and other medicines are safe to take.
Do not smoke. Smoking slows healing and increases your risk of complications and infection.
When to Call the Doctor
Call if you have:
- Increasing pain, redness, swelling, yellow or green drainage, bleeding, or bruising at the incision site(s)
- Side effects from medicines, such as rash, nausea, vomiting, or headache
- A fever of 100°F (38°C) or higher
- Numbness or loss of motion
Also call your doctor if you notice the sudden swelling of your breast.
Breast augmentation - discharge; Breast implants - discharge; Implants - breast - discharge; Breast lift with augmentation - discharge; Breast reduction - discharge
McGrath MH, Pomerantz J. Plastic surgery. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds.Sabiston Textbook of Surgery
Update Date 1/24/2013
Updated by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.