Breast Reduction Surgery: What to Expect at Home
Breast reduction surgery removes some of the breast tissue and skin from the breasts. This reshapes and lifts the breasts and reduces their size. It can also make the dark area around the nipple smaller. After surgery, you will probably feel weak. You may feel sore for 2 to 3 weeks. You also may feel pulling or stretching in your breast area. Although you may need pain medicine for a week or two, you can expect to feel better and stronger each day.
For several weeks, you may get tired easily or have less energy than usual. You also may have the feeling that fluid is moving in your breasts. This feeling is normal and will go away over time.
If your doctor closed your incisions with removable stitches, the stitches will be taken out in 7 to 14 days.
Your breasts may feel firmer and look rounder. Breast reduction may change the normal feeling in your breast. But in time, some feeling may return.
Keep in mind that it may take time to get used to your breasts after your surgery. You will have swelling at first. But the breasts will soften and develop better shape over time.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
- For about 2 to 3 weeks after surgery, or until your doctor says it's okay, avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, a vacuum cleaner, or a child. Do not lift anything over your head for 2 to 3 weeks.
- Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
- Ask your doctor when it is okay for you to have sex.
- You can take your first shower the day after your drain or bandage is removed. This is usually within about 1 week. Sometimes doctors say it is okay to shower the day after surgery. Do not take a bath or soak in a hot tub for about 4 weeks.
- You will probably be able to go back to work or your normal routine in 2 to 3 weeks. This depends on the type of work you do and any further treatment.
- You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
- Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
- You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. Take a fibre supplement. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, take a mild laxative.
- Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. Your doctor will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
- If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
- Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
- If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
- If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
- If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
- Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
- Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
- If you were given medicine for nausea, take it as directed.
- If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
- If your doctor gave you specific instructions on how to care for your incision, follow those instructions.
- You may be wearing a special bra that holds your bandages in place after the surgery. Your doctor will tell you when you can stop wearing the bra. Your doctor may want you to wear the bra at night as well as during the day for several weeks. Do not wear an underwire bra for 1 month or until your doctor says it's okay to do so.
- If you have strips of tape on your incision, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off. Or follow your doctor's instructions for removing the tape.
- Wash the area daily with warm water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
- You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day. Consider having someone help you with this.
- Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
- Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, until your doctor says it is okay.
- Your doctor will tell you when to begin stretching exercises and normal activities.
- You may have one or more drains near your incisions. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of them. Drains are usually removed in the first week after surgery.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You passed out (lost consciousness).
- You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
- You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
- You are bleeding from the incision.
- You have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks leading from the incision.
- Pus draining from the incision.
- A fever.
- You have signs of a blood clot in your leg, such as:
- Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
- Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
- You do not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
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Current as of: November 15, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Keith A. Denkler MD - Plastic Surgery