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Follow your doctor's instructions on self-care at home. Use the information below as a reminder.
When You're in the Hospital
You were probably under general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free). Or you had local anesthesia (awake and pain-free). Your surgery took at least 1 or more 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 activity will help you recover. Your nurse will help you begin to move around.
Depending on the type of surgery you had, you may have gone home the same day or you spent 1 to 2 days in the hospital.
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. The sensation may return over time.
You may need help with your everyday activities for a few days until your pain and swelling decrease.
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. Exertion can increase blood pressure, and lead to bleeding.
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.
You'll need to return to your doctor in a few days to have the drainage tubes removed. Any stitches will be removed within 2 weeks after surgery. If your incisions are covered with surgical glue it doesn't 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. You will need to change them daily.
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 OK.
Incision scars may take several months to more than a year to fade. Follow your provider's instructions on how to care for the scars to help reduce their appearance. Protect your scars 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 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 OK.
Do not drink alcohol while you are taking pain medicines. Do not take aspirin, aspirin-containing drugs, 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 for 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
- 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 sudden swelling of your breast.
Boukovalas S, Kalaria SS, Park JE. Breast reconstruction. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 36.
Calobrace MB. Breast augmentation. In: Peter RJ, Neligan PC, eds. Plastic Surgery, Volume 5: Breast. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 4.
Dixon JM, Macaskill EJ. Benign breast conditions. In: Dixon JM, Barber MD, eds. Breast Surgery: A Companion to Specialist Surgical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 3.
Review Date: 1/10/2021
Reviewed By: David A. Lickstein, MD, FACS, specializing in cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.