Recovery After Breast Reconstruction

When reconstruction of the breast is done simultaneously with mastectomy, the surgery is long. The mastectomy can take anywhere from 2-3 hours and the reconstruction may take an addition 2-4 hours.

Following surgery, the patient spends approximately two to three hours in the recovery room before being transferred to a hospital room.

Breast reconstructive surgery is moderately uncomfortable for at least 2-6 days. Soon after surgery, the area around the breast will be:

- bruised

- swollen

- tender to touch

- red

These side effects will subside over the next few weeks. The pain is controlled by the use of prescription pain medications.

Depending on the degree of breast reconstruction, an overnight stay or a couple of days of hospital admission may be required.

Once the pain has subsided, you will be encouraged to walk and ambulate. Arm exercises are highly recommended. However, heavy exercise or any type of sporting activities is not recommended for at least 4-6 weeks.

During the first few days after surgery, even sitting in a chair may be difficult and you may require assistance from a nurse or a family member. However, by the 2nd or 3rd day, most individuals are able to walk by themselves.

The desire to eat is minimal fro the first few days. The majority of individuals are unable to eat anything because of the nausea from the medications or the surgery itself. Thus, intravenous fluids are usually continued for about 1-2 days. Following this you will be encouraged to drink fluids and eat gradually.

For those of you who have trouble walking, a urinary catheter may be inserted and removed after 1-2 days.

The wound is usually checked by the surgeon the following day and the drain is left in. The drain is only removed when there is no more fluid coming out of the incision site.

You will be shown exactly how to look after the wound and the drain.

The duration of hospital stay after breast reconstruction is variable and dependent on the procedure. If the procedure simply involves implants, a day or 2 as an inpatient may be required. If the breast reconstruction utilized muscle flaps and intricate surgery, at least 5-7 days of hospital admission are required.

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