Breast Lift Recovery Time

Recovery after breast lift surgery can take several weeks or even longer before you see the final results. The following provides a general overview of what you can expect following surgery.

What to expect after surgery

Breast lift procedures are usually performed under general anesthesia, which can leave you feeling groggy or tired. Because of this, you may experience nausea during the initial few days.

After surgery, you may have some soreness or tenderness in the chest area. Any discomfort can be managed with pain medication. Some common side effects include swelling, bruising, nipple sensitivity, numbness, itching around incision sites, and increased firmness or fullness in the breast tissue. These symptoms should gradually subside over the next few weeks. It is no uncommon for some symptoms to persist for up to three months. Although much of the swelling and bruising will go away in the initial weeks, it may take six months to a year for your breasts to fully settle into their new shape.

Timeline for recovery

  • Immediately After Surgery: You may feel groggy and tired for the first few days. Pain medication will be prescribed by your plastic surgeon.
  • First Few Weeks: Soreness, tenderness, swelling, bruising are common side effects, but most of these side effects will gradually subside over the first few weeks.
  • Up to Three Months: Changes in nipple sensitivity or itching may persist for a few months, but they should gradually improve over time.
  • Six Months to One Year: It may take six months to a year for your breasts to fully settle into their new shape and for any remaining side effects to completely subside.

Tips to reduce swelling

Swelling is a common side effect experienced during recovery. As the swelling diminishes, you’ll begin to see the cosmetic results. Here are some tips to reduce swelling:

  • Stay well-hydrated.
  • Follow a healthy, low-sodium diet.
  • Rest and gradually return to your daily activities.
  • Sleep with several pillows behind your back to elevate the treated area.
  • Avoid certain medications that can exacerbate swelling. Inform your plastic surgeon about any medications you are taking before your surgery.

Drains and compression garments

Depending on the surgical approach, you may require a drain or small tube for the first day or two to remove excess fluids from the breast tissue. If this is the case, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions as the drain is important for reducing swelling.

The breasts may become slightly smaller in size as the swelling subsides and the breast tissue relaxes. Over time, many patients find that the appearance of their breasts becomes even more natural.

After the surgery, the breasts will be wrapped in surgical gauze and covered by a gentle bra. It’s important to stick to sponge baths to avoid getting the gauze wet.

Breast lift scars

It’s important to understand that some scarring is inevitable. Depending on the surgical technique used, these scars may be located around the areola, extending vertically from the areola to the crease underneath the breasts, or in the crease underneath the breasts. These scars will fade over the next few months and blend in with the surrounding skin.

When to contact your plastic surgeon

If you experience any of the following side effects, contact your doctor immediately and go to the nearest hospital, as it may indicate a complication:

  • A temperature exceeding 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Blood in urine and feces.
  • Sudden and severe swelling.
  • Skin turning black (not to be confused with bruising).
  • Uncontrollable vomiting.
  • Convulsions.
  • Loss of consciousness.

If you’re concerned about other side effects not mentioned above, it’s recommended that you contact your plastic surgeon directly.

When to resume daily activities

Most patients can return to work around a week. Most surgeons advise patients to start walking and gradually resume other light activities as soon as they are able, which can reduce the recovery time. During this period, avoid physical activities that may strain the incisions, particularly actions such as bending over or lifting your arms above your head. Strenuous exercise should be avoided for one to six weeks. Patients are also advised not to sleep on their stomach for the first few weeks.

Content written by Andrew Proulx, MD | Reviewed by Charlie Chen, MD |Last updated 6/24/2023