What is Recovery from Breast Reconstruction Like?

If you’re planning to undergo breast reconstruction, you probably want to know what type of procedure would be right for you, and what to expect during recovery.  Understanding post-op recovery can help you better prepare and heal faster, so that you can get back to daily activities quickly. 

What Is Breast Reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction refers to surgery that recreates the breast following a mastectomy.  This process usually involves more than one procedure.  Implant reconstruction and flap reconstruction are the two main types of breast reconstruction. 

For implant reconstruction, a tissue expander is first placed beneath the skin to stretch the skin and create the space needed for the breast implant. 

What is Recovery from Breast Reconstruction Like?

Recovery after breast reconstruction varies for each patient, depending on the kind of reconstructive surgery performed.  

Patients typically experience some pain and soreness for the first few days after surgery.  Pain medication is prescribed and should be taken as needed.  Moderate bruising and swelling is normal after breast reconstruction and can take several weeks to resolve.  

Drains (small tubes), may be placed in the incisions to help remove excess fluid that may collect under the skin during breast reconstruction recovery.  Most patients have drains in for 1-2 weeks. 

A surgical bra is also worn for about 4-6 weeks after surgery to support the breasts and minimize swelling. 

Loss of sensation in the breasts is often an unwanted side-effect of breast reconstruction, but most patients regain some feeling over time. 

Patients can generally return to work about 6 weeks after breast reconstruction. 

Walking is encouraged after surgery, but strenuous exercise should be avoided for at least 6 weeks.  

Recovery after breast reconstruction is generally straightforward as long as you follow the post-surgery instructions of your doctor, and keep all follow-up appointments. 

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