What to Expect During Breast Reduction Recovery

Your Recovery Timeline After Breast Reduction Surgery

Doctor examining bandaged woman
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Your recovery after breast reduction surgery will affect how your breasts look over time. Knowing how to take care of your incisions, how to control your pain and when to resume your exercise and other activities will help you obtain the best possible appearance after breast reduction.

What Is Reduction Mammoplasty?

Reduction mammoplasty, also known as breast reduction, is a surgical procedure that removes fat, glandular tissue and skin from the breasts.

It is performed under general anesthesia. As with any type of surgery, breast reduction surgery has a significant recovery period.

How to Recover from Breast Reduction Surgery

After your surgery, you will receive post-operative instructions. Follow them carefully so you can heal properly. The instructions will include the types of medication to apply to the surgical area, oral medications to take to help in healing and reducing the risk of infection, and when to follow up with the surgeon.

What to Expect During the First Week

You will wake up from the procedure wearing either an elastic bandage or surgical bra over the gauze and dressings. Make sure to arrange to have some help in the days right after your surgery, so try and enlist a family member or a friend to help you out. And make sure that you are extremely comfortable with him or her because you will need assistance washing and bathing because they will be unable to raise their arms without pain.

There will be sutures and possible drainage tubes. The drainage tubes will be in place for at least a week after the procedure. After the gauze and dressings have been removed, the patient will wear the surgical bra for the next several weeks. This helps to control swelling and hold the breasts in proper alignment, allowing the tissue to conform to the desired contour.

In The Weeks That Follow Your Surgery

Within two weeks after surgery, your stitches will be removed. In addition, your breasts will be tender. There will be swelling and bruising which will gradually fade. You will probably experience some itching and dryness as the surgical area heals.

To reduce painful swelling, patients should reduce their sodium intake and increase their water intake. This helps to flush fluid out of the body.

After about two weeks, you should be able to return to work, depending on what your profession is. Keep in mind though that you may want to avoid lifting heavy objects for several weeks after the procedure and you should avoid strenuous activity for at least six weeks, allowing the body to heal.

Long Term Recovery Considerations

Everyone may recover form surgery differently. For instance, some patients may experience hypersensitivity of the area. Some patients may experience numbness of the area, for up to a year, following surgery. And there are some patients, who may not have any of these sensations.

Also, how people heal from scars can also be different. There will be visible scars that may fade over time but, in many cases, will not disappear.

For women, the breasts may swell and become tender at the first menstrual cycle after the procedure. Patients may continue to experience sporadic pain, especially during menstruation, for several months after the procedure.


American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Breast Reduction Recovery. Accessed May 22, 2011.

Hall-Findlay EJ. Vertical Reduction Mammaplasty. In Thorne CHM, Beasely RW, Aston SJ, Bartlett SP, Gurtner GC, Spear S, eds. Grabb and Smith’s Plastic Surgery, 6th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 2007.

Cohen BE, Ciaravino ME. Reduction Mammaplasty. In Evans GRD, ed. Operative Plastic Surgery. New York: McGraw Hill, 2000.

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