RECOVERY AFTER BREAST RECONSTRUCTION SURGERY
While no two people experience precisely the same path to full recovery, this overview will suggest what you can typically expect to experience after surgery. We hope that this information helps you to plan for your recovery.
RECOVERING AFTER PERFORATOR-FLAP Breast Reconstruction
Most patients do not have considerable pain following flap surgery. In fact, most patients need little, if any, narcotic medication following perforator-flap breast reconstruction surgery.
DURING YOUR HOSPITAL STAY
Right after surgery…
You will be brought to the recovery room, where your nurse will make sure you’re comfortable and will check on you and closely monitor your surgical site. If you like, you can have family or others visit with you in the recovery room.
During your hospital stay…
From the recovery room you will be taken to a comfortable private room where you will have personal nursing care for the first 24 hours of your recovery. You’re welcome to have someone stay overnight with you in your hospital; a fold-out bed for a guest will be available right in your room. You will be able to shower in the hospital. Most patients spend 3 nights recuperating before going home, though some can return home even sooner.
AFTER YOU LEAVE THE HOSPITAL
The first few weeks at home…
While you may feel tired and a bit sore in the first few weeks following surgery, most women do not have significant pain. You may feel comfortableusing just over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
While you cannot participate in vigorous or strenuous activity for several weeks after surgery, you will be able to take walks, work at a desk, climb stairs and engage in other non-strenuous activity as soon as you leave the hospital. Most women can resume driving a car sometime between the 2nd and 3rd week after surgery. Most women can return to light aerobic activity about 4 weeks after surgery, and most will be able to resume full physical activity 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. Dr. Greenspun will advise you, based upon how you are recovering, when it is safe to resume various activities.
Returning to work…
Since recovery time from surgery will vary from person to person, it is not possible to predict exactly how soon after surgery you will be able to return to work. We generally recommend taking 3-4 weeks off from work. Some women are able to return to work sooner, and some may take a little longer especially if their work is physically demanding.
RECOVERING AFTER BREAST IMPLANT RECONSTRUCTION
In most cases, a woman will spend one night in the hospital following mastectomy and placement of an implant or tissue expander.
Following the placement of a tissue expander or implant, you can expect to experience some muscle soreness and spasm, particularly if an expander or implant is placed behind or under your muscle. The process of tissue expansion begins about one and a half weeks or more after surgery. Every 1-2 weeks, during a short office visit, sterile fluid will be injected through the overlying skin into the tissue expander, in order to gradually create space for an implant.
Your upper back and shoulder may also be sore during this process. It is often helpful to do gentle range-of-motion exercises to avoid shoulder stiffness, and you will receive specific instructions from Dr. Greenspun about what you can and cannot do. As is also the case with flap reconstruction, you will not be able to participate in vigorous or strenuous activity for 6 to 8 weeks following surgery; you will be able to take walks, work at a desk, climb stairs and engage in other non-strenuous activity as soon as you leave the hospital. Many women are able to return to light aerobic activity about 4 weeks after surgery, and most are allowed to resume full physical activity 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. We generally recommend taking 2-3 weeks off from work, though some women may require a bit more time.