11 Breast Reconstruction Recovery Tips

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Dr. Jude LaBarbera, MD Plastic Surgeon


11 Breast Reconstruction Recovery Tips

Surgery to rebuild the breast can make you feel whole again after mastectomy or lumpectomy. Working with a highly experienced surgeon, many women are able to get back to routine activities within a week. Preparing for the surgery in advance and giving yourself adequate rest and self-care can help ensure that everything goes according to plan. This article highlights 11 tips for smooth and quick breast reconstruction in Phoenix AZ recovery.

1. Plan ahead for assistance

Breast reconstruction is a major surgery and you’ll need assistance with chores and tasks over the first few days after the procedure. Arrange for a friend or family member to drive you home right after you’re discharged from the hospital, as well as help around the house for the first 24 – 72 hours. Keep in mind that you will be unable to lift anything more than a few pounds heavy and having some help close by can give you the space you need to kickstart your recovery journey.

2. Get plenty of rest and sleep

Your body needs enough rest and sleep at this time. If you are used to being busy and staying active all the time, this can be easier said than done. Set a quiet room aside and bring a comfortable bed and plenty of pillows in. A couple of books (your favorite kind), movies, magazines or anything else to help you pass time will suffice. You need this time to regain your strength and allow your wounds to heal.

3. Manage your pain and discomfort

Mild pain and discomfort are common during the early stages of breast reconstruction surgery recovery time. You may also feel tightness or pressure across your chest. Taking pain medication provided to you can help increase your comfort level. In any case, make sure to call your doctor should you experience any worrying sensations – or need some answers.

4. Eat and drink right!

Taking in light, healthy foods and staying hydrated is very important for your breast reconstruction recovery. Soft, light foods are the best to start with on the first post-op day because you may be a little nauseous. Drink lots of water every day and have a variety of healthy nutritious meals ready to give your body the fuel that it needs for a full recovery. 

5. Wear your surgical bra

Wearing your surgical bra is a must to ensure proper recovery following breast reconstruction surgery. This elastic bra works to support your new breasts and helps minimize swelling. According to plastic surgeons, it also accelerates healing and reduces the risk of infection. Your doctor will let you know how long you need to keep up with this.

6. Protect your surgical drains

Surgical drains – thin tubes that are attached to your breast side – allow excess fluid to drain away into a hollow container at the end. This is important to control swelling as well as allow the tissue and muscle in your breast area to heal. Because the drain needs to stay in place for a couple of days, you will be required to go home with it. Make sure to take the utmost care of it in order to avoid any complications.

7. Adhere to your doctor’s instructions

Your doctor will provide a lot of post-op instructions that are all important for a seamless recovery process. You will be told to avoid certain things, eat certain things, care for your wounds in a certain way, and more. All these instructions are important in order to avoid complications, improve your comfort, and ensure prompt healing. If any post-op appointments are set up, make sure to attend so that your breast reconstruction specialist can gauge your progress.

8. Care for your incisions

Just like your surgical drain, your incision sites are delicate right after surgery and should be taken good care of. To this end, you will be asked to avoid any excessive movements, rubbing, or forceful activities until after full recovery. Keep away from any forms of strenuous exercises or sex for the first 6 weeks, or until you get the green light from your doctor.

9. Get some activity

Light activity after breast reconstruction surgery helps prevent complications such as blood clots and can aid the recovery process. Your doctor will ask you to take light walks and gently move around as soon as you are able to. In some cases, the surgeon will prescribe physical therapy to help you regain full functioning in the shortest time possible.

10. Keep a positive mindset

First, there’s the lumpectomy or mastectomy to face the trial of cancer. And now, breast reconstruction is a whole new journey. You will no doubt experience a lot of emotions, some of which may put you down. Many breast reconstruction patients indeed go through a challenging adjustment period as they struggle to accept their reformed breasts. Anything you can do to maintain a positive mindset during this time will do good for your recovery. If you struggle for several weeks, talk to your doctor or seek professional help so you can learn how to manage these emotions.

11. Be patient

Last but not least, be patient. You will have a lot to process – the appearance of new breasts, the trauma that surgery causes your body, and being unable to undertake routine activities. Without patience, all of this can be very challenging. Allow at least 6 weeks for all the swelling and bruising to subside.

Consult with a Breast Reconstruction Expert

Dr. LaBarbera is highly experienced in breast reconstruction procedures. As one of the top qualified professionals in the greater Phoenix area, he understands your struggle and will take the time to devise an effective treatment and recovery plan. Dr. LaBarbera takes each patient case as unique and works to achieve the desired outcome. Schedule an initial consultation to ask questions or learn more about breast reconstruction procedure and the recovery process thereafter.