Breast Reduction Recovery
Breast reduction surgery is completely safe and is regularly performed in the UK. It can take 2-6 weeks to fully recover from surgery and it can take several months before you see the full results of the reduction process.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from Breast Reduction Surgery?
Women choose to have breast reduction surgery for a number of different reasons, but recovery from breast reduction surgery usually follows a typical course. It will vary slightly depending on your overall health, self-care, and life pressures. In addition, the recovery will depend to some degree on whether you had the surgery privately, or on the NHS for health reasons.
Following your breast reduction surgery, the main recovery takes approximately two weeks. During this period you can expect to feel tender and sore, with some bruising and swelling. This is normal as the surgery involved moving, removing, and manipulating breast tissue and skin. Your surgeon will give you advice on how to minimise this.
Initially, following the procedure, you will stay for 1-3 nights in the hospital or clinic. This is so that you can recover from the general anaesthetic, have professional dressing changes, and possibly have a drain to remove excess fluid. You should expect the breasts to be sore and swollen, but you will be given cream to moisturise and soothe the swollen areas. You'll also need a specialised bra at this time.
Following your discharge you will be advised to wear the specialised bra or a well-fitting sports bra with adequate support. This, along with regular painkillers, will help to minimise discomfort. Your stitches will usually be removed 1-2 weeks following the surgery. You will be given advice on how you can maximise your long-term recovery and ensure that the breast reduction surgery is a long-term success.
Your doctor will probably advise you to avoid any strenuous exercise for the first 6 weeks or so. When you return to work will depend on the success of your recovery, combined with the nature of your work.
You will be able to decide when to return to work depending on what you do. For those with sedentary desk jobs, you may be able to return to work around two weeks after the procedure, as long as you continue to avoid any lifting or strenuous activity. If you have a more physical job, then you will need a longer recovery time and should discuss your options with your surgeon. Heavy-lifting must be avoided for several weeks after the surgery to limit the risk of both damage and pain.
One of the significant complications following breast reduction surgery is swelling, which can cause additional discomfort. For this reason, clinics usually advise their patients to avoid sex, and sexual arousal, for a week or more until things are more comfortable, as this can cause additional swelling. Furthermore, you may discover the swelling becomes slightly more uncomfortable during your first period following the surgery. This is normal and should be managed with painkillers as advised by your surgeon.
Fundamentally, you need to be careful with touch and contact with your breasts for the first one to two months following the procedure. Adequate support, and taking a caring approach, will help.
Breast reduction is significant surgery and you can expect scarring. To begin with, these scars will be particularly apparent as red, angry and lumpy. However, you can expect them to reduce and fade over time. However, you will always have scars. Discuss with your surgeon the type of breast reduction technique they will use in your particular circumstance so that you know what type of scarring you can anticipate. This may be an ‘anchor technique’ or ‘lollipop’, both of which cause most of the scarring underneath the areola down to the breast crease, and therefore are less noticeable.
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What Are the Benefits of Breast Reduction?
Most women find themselves with a new lease of life following breast reduction surgery and recovery. Exercise, which may have been uncomfortable, and even painful, can now be performed, leading to an overall increase in health and wellness. Women who have struggled with poor posture will find that other aches and pains begin to dissipate, and overall there is often a renewal in self-confidence and self-esteem. Furthermore, women who have experienced soreness, and even infection, in the crease of their breasts, will find their self-care easier and often these problems go away.
Breast reduction surgery can also help to trigger weight loss which is more sustainable and leads to a healthier lifestyle for the individual. The psychological effects of breast reduction surgery include reduced anxiety and depression caused by the woman’s large breasts, and a boost to self-esteem, confidence, and self-belief.
Side Effects to Expect Following Breast Reduction
During breast reduction surgery, the areola (nipple area) will be moved to reposition it centrally to the new shape and size of the breasts. Therefore, it is quite common to experience some numbness, or lack of sensation, in this area. Usually, this improves with time. Conversely, you may experience hypersensitivity to the entire breast because it is tender following the surgery. Again, this will usually improve with time.
Breast reduction surgery is intense surgery, and as such swelling is usually significant, and it can take anywhere up to a year for the swelling to fully subside. You will have follow-up appointments to monitor the swelling, and give you advice as to how to reduce it.
Risks and Complications
As with all surgery, there are some risks and complications associated with breast reduction surgery.
In some instances, especially where the reduction surgery has been significant, you may experience an uneven shape to the breasts, or potentially the nipples. As with other forms of breast surgery, it is also possible that the sensation in the nipple area will become reduced or change. This is often temporary, but in some instances can become permanent.
As with all surgeries, there is a risk of infection. This is reduced by following advice on wound care and only removing dressings when instructed to do so. Even if you do experience an infection this is usually treatable quickly with antibiotics.
It is rare, but occasionally breast reduction surgery can result in fat necrosis, which is when the fatty tissue within the breast begins to die. This can cause problems with the colour, and tone of the breasts, as well as lumpiness. As with all surgery, there is a risk of blood clots, and you will be given advice how to avoid these.
You may not be able to breastfeed following breast reduction surgery and so it is advised that you complete your family before considering a surgical breast reduction.
Scars will generally reduce over time, but for some women, they may become wider over time through the ageing process, particularly in smokers. Your surgeon will explain the likelihood of all risks associated with breast reduction surgery before you give your consent to the procedure.