Breast Augmentation Recovery, Explained

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When considering any surgical procedure, it’s typical for patients to be worried about the recovery process post-operation. Questions regarding pain, time off from work and scar expectations float through their mind—especially when the procedure is of the plastic surgery variety.

For those opting for a breast augmentation—which is one of the more common plastic surgery procedures performed—Rochester, NY plastic surgeon Ashley Amalfi, MD asserts that while recovery is a major concern for patients, it simply isn’t as bad as many think.

“This is a very common and quick outpatient surgery,” says Dr. Amalfi, who is also a consultant for Mentor. “We do these right in our office surgery center, and patients go home the same day.” Of course, not every breast augmentation recovery is a walk in the park, which is why we’re breaking down exactly what you can expect during recovery, below.

What is recovery like?
In general, breast augmentation surgery takes around two to three hours and patients are allowed to return home the same day as their procedure. Because general anesthesia is used, patients need someone to transport them home after their surgery. It’s also advised for patients to have a caretaker stay with them for the first few days post-op to assist during this time of discomfort.

The patient’s recovery is also dependent on the surgical technique used by the doctor as the location of the scar and implant placement can all impact the intensity of post-surgery soreness. In the first 48 hours, patients will feel achy and have a “heavy” feeling to their chest. There are no drains to take out or sutures to remove (usually surgical tape and a surgical bra are used after the procedure), and patients normally spend the first day taking it easy.

How long does recovery take?
According to Dr. Amalfi, patients can move around, shower, and go for a short walk the very next day. “I like my patients to refrain from strenuous exercise or lifting and straining for the first few weeks after surgery,” she says. “In the current pandemic, many of my patients are working from home, and they can go back to work sometimes even the very next day remotely.” For those who work in person, you will need to take five days to a week off from work before returning to a non-physical job.  

At three weeks patients can slowly resume an exercise routine, and by six weeks there are no restrictions at all. “I tell patients to let their body be their guide [at six weeks] to help them ease into their normal activities.” 

Also, by this six-week mark, patients are likely able to start shopping for their new bras and tops as swelling will have significantly subsided and final results will have started to settle in.

How much pain should you expect?
Patients should expect soreness rather than actual pain post-operation. “The muscle soreness is similar to an intense workout,” Dr. Amalfi explains. “This lasts the first few days and slowly eases with time. Most of my patients are very surprised that they do a lot better than expected.” 

What are the best ways to prevent complications during recovery?
Naturally, it’s important that you listen to your doctor’s specific restrictions to help you have an easy and complication-free recovery. Being active too early can cause bleeding or other issues with your implants.

“I tell my patients who have implants under their muscle to avoid chest presses and dedicated chest exercises,” says Dr. Amalfi. “Working those muscles excessively [during recovery] could lead to implant malposition.”

Patients should also avoid underwire bras until their doctor specifies that it’s safe to wear them again. During the first few weeks of recovery, your plastic surgeon will likely recommend that you wear a surgical bra to reduce swelling and provide support.

What are your best post-op care tips?
“It’s important to have someone home with you the first night after surgery,” says Dr. Amalfi.  “They can help you make sure your medications are taken on time and they can take care of your [general needs] that first night.”

Following that, the more you plan ahead the better. Make sure you have lots of easy-to-make meals so that you don’t need to run out to the grocery store for the first week after recovery.  This will allow you to rest and recover without any hassle or added stress. “Your doctor will likely provide a surgical bra, and I recommend front closure sports bras for my patients during the first two months after surgery,” she adds. “Loose-fitting or front button shirts are helpful and easy to take on and off, too.” 

Finally, as with any surgery, it’s important to stop smoking and drinking as these habits can compromise your surgical results and interfere with the healing process. Smoking reduces blood flow to the skin, which is essential to promote healing, and drinking alcohol dilates blood vessels, which can increase the chances of bleeding and bruising after your surgery.

The viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and surgeons included; they do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Mentor.

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