After breast augmentation surgery, you can anticipate a larger and fuller chest with enhanced cleavage. While the decision to go through with breast augmentation is exciting, it’s essential to be informed about the of the recovery process, which can generally last several weeks.
Immediately after surgery
An outer dressing will be applied to the chest area. Before going home, your plastic surgeon will provide post-operative instructions. During the initially recovery period, it is important to keep your head elevated using multiple pillows.
First two weeks
- Limit physical activities to gentle walking.
- Some sutures are typically removed during the first week, with additional sutures potentially removed in the second week.
- Expect soreness in the chest area for one to two weeks.
- Common side effects include swelling, bruising, redness, and tenderness as your skin and natural breast tissue adapt to the new implants.
Three to four weeks
- Other sutures begin to dissolve.
- Most swelling and bruising should have subsided, allowing you to gradually resume light activities.
One to two months
- While some swelling may still be present, you will start to get a better idea of your final results.
In most cases, visible results become apparent within the first few months, but improvements may continue over the next several months with final results usually seen in 4 to 6 months.
Breast implant incisions can vary in length, typically ranging from one to three inches. Incisions may be located in different areas, such as the belly button, armpit, around the areola and nipples, or in the crease under the breasts. It’s common for incision sites to itch during the healing process. While incision placement is usually chosen to minimize scarring, some scars will form. These scars should gradually fade in appearance over the next six months to a year. Initially, scars may appear red, eventually returning to the color of the surrounding skin. Keep incision or suture lines dry and avoid using lotion, creams, or topical arnica on the incisions as they may cause inflammation.
To aid in the healing process, your surgeon may have inserted one or more drains (thin plastic tubes) into the incisions. These tubes can be left in place for several days or weeks post-surgery.
Tips to avoid swelling
Swelling is one of the most common side effects of breast augmentation and may obscure the results during the initial days after surgery. To help minimize swelling and expedite your recovery:
- Stay well-hydrated.
- Take prescribed antibiotics.
- Avoid medications that can prolong swelling.
- Maintain a proper diet with reduced sodium intake.
- Apply cold compresses to your breasts during the first 48 hours.
- Monitor your temperature to detect signs of infection.
- Gently massage the chest area to improve circulation and reduce fluid retention.
- Sleep on your back with head elevated.
- Do not shower until incisions are closed, and sutures are removed.
- Rest and gradually ease back into your daily activities.
During the recovery period, your chest will be wrapped in surgical dressings. It’s important to wear a compression garment or surgical bra to support the tissues in their new position. Your breast tissue and chest skin are adapting to holding the weight of the implants, and wearing these garments will help control swelling, reduce tissue soreness, and ensure optimal results.
Scars and keloids
Incisions will form scars that may initially appear red and raised, eventually flattening and becoming pale. Avoid sun exposure as it may cause discoloration and more pronounced scarring. In some cases, lumpy, raised scars called keloids may develop, particularly in individuals with dark skin. If scars remain visible after full healing, various treatments are available to minimize their appearance, such as laser scar removal, cryosurgery, and steroid injections.
When to contact your plastic surgeon
If you experience any of the following side effects, contact your plastic surgeon and seek immediate medical attention:
- A temperature above 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Blood in urine or feces.
- Severe swelling and discoloration.
- Blackened skin.
- Incessant, uncontrollable vomiting.
- Loss of consciousness.
For concerns about other side effects not listed above, it’s recommended you contact your plastic surgeon directly.
Returning to your daily routine
Most patients take one to two weeks off work and other responsibilities following breast enlargement. Restrict movement, particularly activities that involve reaching over your head or bending over. Avoid strenuous activities for up to six weeks and gradually return to your normal activity level over about ten days. Report significant pain lasting more than a week to your doctor, as it may be a sign of capsular contracture, a condition requiring implant removal.
• Alderman AK, Bauer J, Fardo D, et al. Understanding the effect of breast augmentation on quality of life: prospective analysis using the BREAST-Q. Plast Reconstr Surg 2014;133:787-95. Available from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24675184/
• Gryskiewicz, Joe, MD, FACS. Aesthetic Surgery Journal, Volume 34, Issue 7, September 2014, Pages 1120–1122, https://doi.org/10.1177/1090820X14541122
• Clark, Kaitlin. Nine tips from a plastic surgeon and patient for a smoother recovery. (December, 27, 2021) Available from https://www.plasticsurgery.org/news/articles/nine-tips-from-a-plastic-surgeon-and-patient-for-a-smoother-recovery
• UCLA Health. Plastic Surgery Post-Operative Recovery. Available from https://www.uclahealth.org/medical-services/surgery/plastic-surgery/patient-resources/post-operative-recovery
• The Aesthetic Society. Preparing for your Aesthetic Procedure & Recovery Checklist. Available from https://www.theaestheticsociety.org/patient-resources/preparation/checklist