The Breast Augmentation Recovery Process

What You Can Expect

Cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgeon applying a protective bandage round the client's breasts after surgery.
Ian Hooton/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Breast augmentation is the number one plastic surgery procedure in the United States. Any type of elective surgery is a big decision, and breast implants are no different. But a breast augmentation isn't just a surgery.

Once surgery is over, the recovery process begins. Because there are so many options as far as implant types, placement and incisions, recovery time varies widely. All patients generally need at least 2 days of rest after the procedure, followed by a period of several days of reduced activity.

Most patients are able to get back into their daily routine after approximately a week. Still, swelling and soreness can persist for an additional 3 to 4 weeks.

What to Expect Immediately After Breast Augmentation

Taking good care of yourself post-op is extremely important. You need to give your body an optimal amount of time to heal and look its best. Here's what you can expect within the first few days after your surgery:

  • Surgery is incredibly taxing on the body. You'll likely feel extremely tired and sore in the days following the procedure. Get plenty of rest.
  • 24 hours after surgery, you may remove the dressings, except for the skin tapes or steri-strips that cover the incisions. Steri-strips are applied with a skin adhesive, so they can be washed over without needing to be removed. Just blot dry with a clean towel. The steri-strips will eventually fall off on their own.
  • You may continue to cover incisions with gauze dressings, as needed, for a week.
  • The chest area may feel tight while skin adjusts to the implants, which is normal.
  • You may have less feeling in your breasts and nipples in the days immediately following the surgery.
  • Swelling and mild bruising of the breasts is normal after surgery, and will gradually subside over the next several weeks.
  • Your plastic surgeon may start you on breast massage techniques to avoid capsular contracture, speed up recovery and diminish discomfort.
  • Your plastic surgeon may also tell you to wear a soft, yet supportive post-surgical bra, sports bra or wide, elastic bandage around your breasts for help with support and positioning during recovery. Do not wear an underwire bra. The wire can affect the position of the breast implant. Some plastic surgeons advise patients not to wear a bra at all. Follow your surgeon's instructions.
  • If instructed to wear a bra or compression bandage, remove it to bathe, but put it back on immediately after.
  • Most plastic surgeons will allow patients to shower 24 hours after surgery, but they will request that still water be avoided for 2 weeks after surgery. This includes bath water, swimming pools, hot tubs, whirlpools, lakes, oceans, etc.
  • Many patients return back to work and their daily routine within days of the surgery.
  • If you are sent home with drains, empty the drainage bulb and record the amount of fluid three times per day. It is important to record the amount because this will tell your surgeon when the drains are ready to be removed.

    What to Expect in the Weeks Following Surgery

    As previously mentioned, the recovery process varies for everyone. Although most patients are completely back to normal about a week after surgery, recovery continues:

    • Breasts will likely remain swollen and sensitive for up to a month or longer following surgery.
    • Strenuous activities and exercises that raise the pulse, blood pressure or require extensive use of the arms and chest should be avoided.

    Your plastic surgeon should provide you with a comprehensive guide to recovery. If you experience any issues or complications during recovery, contact your surgeon immediately.

    See Also


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

    Slavin SA, Greene AK. Augmentation Mammoplasty and Its Complications. 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.

    Spear SL, Bulan EJ, Venturi ML. Breast Augmentation. In McCarthy JG, Galiano RD, Boutros SG, eds. Current Therapy in Plastic Surgery. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier, 2006.

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