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What to Expect After Breast Reconstruction Surgery

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Breast reconstruction after mastectomy or lumpectomy usually entails one or more complex surgical procedures necessitating a customized treatment plan and one or more recovery periods. 

Unlike most cosmetic breast surgeries, your reconstruction process frequently requires two or more surgical stages to complete, translating into a longer overall reconstructive period and recovery time. 

Female doctor holding a pink ribbon for breast cancer in her palm.

Several different techniques are employed in breast cancer reconstruction, including implant reconstruction alone, tissue expander and implant-based reconstruction, flap reconstruction, or a combination of techniques.

Whether you are a candidate for immediate breast reconstruction or opt to have it done later on (delayed reconstruction), the surgical approaches for both are quite demanding. 

This blog sheds light on what to expect during breast reconstruction recovery and offers tips to help you maximize your healing potential and facilitate you obtaining the best possible results.

Recovery From Breast Reconstruction

Tissue flap procedures involve the transfer of skin, fat, and often muscle from other parts of the body to create a new breast mound. These procedures are quite demanding, technical, may require microsurgery and are quite extensive, often requiring hospital stays and a longer recovery period than what is typical for implant-based reconstruction.

For implant-based reconstruction, either the implants are placed in one stage or they are part of a two-stage procedure that involves the usage of tissue expanders (temporary inflatable implants), which stretch the skin of the breast site before “final” implant placement. 

The recovery period can also vary based on whether the patient wants immediate reconstruction (done at the time of the mastectomy) or wants to wait until sometime later in the future. It is also more likely that tissue expanders will be necessary when pursuing delayed reconstruction. This also translates into an overall longer recovery time period. 

What Should I Expect During My Breast Reconstruction Surgery Recovery?

The type of breast reconstruction procedure along with other factors will determine whether the patient goes home postoperatively or stays one or more nights in a hospital or outpatient center. It will also determine the postoperative restrictions as well as the length of time for these restrictions 

As with most procedures, the amount of time needed for recovery and the level and duration of discomfort varies from person to person. A compression garment or surgical bra will be used after the initial surgical dressing is removed. It will provide support, comfort and immobilization of the breasts and will help control swelling and bruising. There may be drainage tubes in place, depending on the particular procedure, that can help reduce the risk of fluid accumulation in the surgical site.

It is very important that you follow the guidelines given to you by your plastic surgeon. These guidelines should enumerate allowed activity levels and how long activities are restricted. Driving and returning to work or school should also be addressed. It is also important to have excellent nutrition along with a high-level protein diet to maximize the healing process. 

A variety of complications and non-ideal outcomes can result following the procedure. These can include infection, bleeding, accumulation of fluid, asymmetries of breast size, shape, contour and position, implant-related issues, anesthesia problems, delayed healing, wound separation, blood clots and undesirable results.

Results of a Breast Reconstruction Procedure

Positive improvements like reduced swelling and improved breast shape will be noticeable as healing progresses. However, after a given procedure, it can take up to a year to see more permanent results.

Ultimately, breast reconstruction provides women with a feeling of wholeness, wellness and improved self-confidence.

Your Phoenix, AZ Breast Reconstruction Expert

Are you considering undergoing breast reconstruction surgery or revision of your previous reconstruction?  If so, Dr. Steven H. Turkeltaub, a highly experienced board-certified plastic surgeon, will walk with you every step of the way, providing support and advice throughout your entire recovery process. 

We prioritize your safety, satisfaction and obtaining excellent outcomes. 

Contact us at (480) 451-3000 or fill out our online form to schedule your consultation.