Breast reconstruction surgery can be life-changing, restoring a more natural appearance after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. Many patients cannot wait for their surgery to be over so they can enjoy their new look. However, it's important that you know what to expect when it comes to recovery from this procedure.
Soreness and Pain Management
It is normal and expected to have some pain and soreness after breast reconstruction surgery. Your chest may feel tight due to the addition of implants to your breast tissue. The incisions themselves may also be sore. Your surgeon will generally send you home in support bandages which are wrapped tightly around your chest; these help give your breasts support, which will ease the discomfort. You'll likely be prescribed pain relievers. Taking them regularly and on-schedule can help control the pain. Although prescription protocols vary, most patients take opiates for a couple of days and then transition to milder NSAID pain relievers, like ibuprofen. The pain should be much less noticeable after one week and nearly gone after two weeks.
Drains and Wound Care
Many patients are sent home with several drains in their incisions. These drains allow fluids to escape from the surgical site. Your doctor will show you how to empty the tubes as they collect fluids. After a week or two, you will return to your doctor's office, and the drains will be removed.
In addition to emptying your drains, you will also need to change your bandages. Most doctors will ask you to do this daily. You should have a friend or family member help you change your bandages, especially on the first few days post-surgery when lifting your arms may be difficult.
Return to Work and Activity
This is the big question — how long do you need to take off from work? If your job is not overly physically demanding, you should be able to return to work after about two weeks. However, you should avoid all demanding physical activity for about two months; wait for your surgeon's go-ahead based on your own healing progress.
It will be very important for you to wear a supportive bra as you resume physical activity. Many patients like to wear a sports bra over their bandage garments for a month or two before moving back to a normal bra.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what to expect as you recover from breast reconstruction surgery. Above all else, make sure you follow your surgeon's specific instructions.