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Breast Reconstruction Recovery and Results

Pink Ribbon - Breast Reconstruction - Breast Cancer


Recovery from Breast Reconstruction with Implants


Breast Reconstruction - depending on the type of surgery that was needed initially will probably need the patient to stay in the hospital overnight. Pain following the surgery is typically mild to moderate intensity, and if you are staying in the hospital for a night you will have a morphine pump to help relieve the pain. After you are discharged from the hospital, oral pain medication usually is enough to keep the patient comfortable.

The recovery from having breast reconstruction with implants; will leave a patient sore for a few weeks. The patient will be tired, which is normally from the anesthesia that was given.  


                                       Recovery from a TRAM Flap Reconstructed Breast

                                   Copyright 2010 - ADAM, Inc. - Used with permission

                                      Recovery from a TRAM Flap Procedure



Drains will be put in place for a short amount of time after the surgery to help remove the accumulation of excess fluids that will collect at the surgical site. 

The patient will be asked to measure and record the amount of fluid each day, so that the surgeon will know when it is safe to remove the drains. The drains stay in place until the amount of fluid draining decreases. This is to prevent a seroma or a hematoma from forming.




Sutures, both permanent and dissolvable, will be in place after your surgery. The absorbable sutures will eventually be absorbed by the body within 60 – 90 days.  Scarring is of course, permanent; however the scars will fade over time. Your surgeon will let you know when it is safe to start scar therapy to help minimize the incisions.




Steri-Strips are common to have on top of your incision line and sutures – or if you have internal sutures with tissue glue to help bind the external incision edges. Your surgeon will remove these when you have your sutures removed, and more than likely re-apply the strips to the incision after the stitches are removed. Most surgeons will ask their patients to leave these strips on the incision to help keep tension off of the incision line during recovery. By doing this you will allow your scar to heal into a thin line. 




Sutures (mostly the dissolvable ones) will work themselves to the surface of the incision.  This happens quite commonly, and actually when a stitch does pop out, it can come to the surface with an inflamed red spot.  Usually you can feel something like ‘fishing line’ around this area.  It is best to call the Plastic Surgeon when any suture makes it way to the surface for removal.  You really do not want to attempt to do this yourself, as this is way that infections can start, and you have to make sure you are removing a suture that is not something that is permanent.  Dissolvable sutures are usually clear color (like fishing line), and permanent sutures are dark blue in color.

There are various types of suture material that is used in closing an incision.  Some patients do have problems with sutures, and some sutures are more likely to cause this than others.  Braided sutures (such as Vicryl) can cause this and, for that reason, many surgeons have switched to monofilament (unbraided) sutures, such as Monocryl or PDS.  Vicryl is an excellent and strong suture material, but it has been associated with "spitting

It is very important that if you see any discharge around this area, if the area feels inflamed or is hot to the touch. Please call your Plastic Surgeon immediately, as this could mean that you have an infection started, and you will need to start on antibiotics immediately.




Most surgeons like the patients to take things easy for a number of weeks after the procedure.   Anywhere from six to eight weeks you will be asked to refrain from lifting anything over 10 lbs. You should also limit any activity that has excessive arm movements, like vacuuming, ironing, etc. 

No strenuous exercises are advised during recovery, in fact check with your own surgeon to find out what you can and cannot do. Any unnecessary bending or exercising can put undue pressure on the chest and slow the healing down. It is important to make sure you are not doing too much during the recovery process. By doing activities too soon could lead to swelling or edema in the breast area.  Also making sure your blood pressure is not elevated during the recovery process, as this can lead to bleeding or a possible hematoma.




Numbness in the surrounding breast tissue after breast reconstruction surgery is normal. In some cases this numbness can be permanent. Unfortunately this is the byproduct of having a mastectomy. The nerves that were in the breast tissue are removed. How much sensation is regained and to what degree will vary from patient to patient. 

In general, reconstruction will not restore the normal sensation to your breast, however; some feeling may return. It is not unusual for the breast to remain numb in the front of the breast and retain sensation in the outer perimeters of the breast. Shooting pain from the nerves and tingling during breast lift recovery is also normal. This means the nerves are trying to regenerate, so these sensations are a good sign that the nerves are returning to normal function.

Plastic surgeons will tell their patients to give this at least a year before diagnosing this as permanent sensation loss, as nerve fibers grow at a very slow rate and can take months before the feeling comes back into the breast area.

The newly reconstructed nipple/areola complex will also remain numb after mastectomy with reconstruction because it lacks the nerve endings and muscle fibers needed to receive sensation.  Most patients who are faced with breast reconstruction feel that this is a small price to pay to not only have their life back, but to also have a new breast.




It is preferred that if you do smoke, to quit if possible. Smoking reduces circulation which can lead to poorly oxygenated blood – which is needed to heal from the surgery.  

The effects of smoking and cosmetic surgery




It is not uncommon for your menstrual cycle to be altered for a month or two after you undergo surgery. The stress of the surgery and anesthesia plays havoc on your system.  Your period will return to normal within a couple of months.




Depression after any plastic surgery procedure is very normal, and recovery from breast reconstruction can have a huge range of emotions.  Most patients experience some sort of “let down” after the procedure simply because there was so much anxiety and anticipation preparing for the surgery. Both physical and emotional recovery takes time. After mastectomy and reconstruction, you may find yourself concerned with different things, ranging from your physical appearance to your sexual identity.

It is perfectly normal to go through this depression post operative period. A life changing episode occurred. You are still beautiful inside and out and reminding yourself of this will help boost your body image. A mastectomy is a loss and should be mourned, but don't forget to remind yourself that there is a light at the end of this tunnel and you will emerge a beautiful sexual woman with your newly reconstructed breast. The recovery period can seem long but with the support of family and friends you will find yourself once again getting back to your old self.  


  • Focus on the positives. Life is filled with negative things, but it can also be wonderful. Remind yourself about the things you love to do and about all the good things in your life.

  • Talk with others. Join a support group, forum, or discussion board, talk to family or friends, or meet with other women who have experienced mastectomy with reconstruction.

  • Don't rush yourself.

  • Recovery takes time. Take things one day at a time.

Read more about Depression and Breast Reconstruction




By having realistic expectations of what your final result will be from breast reconstruction will help tremendously. 


Breast Reconstruction with implants offers many BENEFITS including:

  • Give you a breast contour

  • Provide improved symmetry to your breasts so that they look similar

  • Help you avoid the need for an external prosthesis


Breast Reconstruction WILL offer the patient the following:

  • Improve your self-esteem and body image

  • Partially erase the physical reminders of the breast cancer

  • Require additional surgery to correct reconstructive problems


Breast Reconstruction will NOT offer you the following:

  • Make you look exactly the same as before

  • Give your reconstructed breast the same sensations as your normal breast





More Breast Reconstruction and Breast Cancer Information:







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