Keys to a Smoother Breast Augmentation Recovery
Recovery from a breast augmentation doesn’t have to be as difficult as it’s often portrayed to be. In fact, there are a number of techniques that plastic surgeons can utilize to ease recovery, as well as advice patients can heed in order to expedite the process themselves. Below is a Q&A session we conducted with our double-board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Lawrence Tong, to highlight the keys to a smoother recovery following breast augmentation surgery.
Question: Most importantly, what do patients need to know about recovery from breast augmentation?
Dr. Tong: Most patients are actually surprised about the ease of recovery. Many have read about the experiences of others on the Internet and expect something much worse. In general, patients only require the narcotic-based pain medications for a few days before tapering them significantly or stopping them altogether and opting for something without narcotics. Patients are usually back to work within five to seven days, but are not allowed to exercise until one month after surgery.
Tightness of the chest is a common complaint. This occurs because the muscle and skin is stretched by the implant, giving the sensation of chest tightness. The good news is, this feeling generally fades within the first few days. Sleeping with the head and chest slightly elevated will decrease chest swelling much more rapidly while helping the breast implants to settle faster.
Q: What techniques do you utilize during surgery to ease patient recovery?
DT: One of the most important techniques to ease recovery is to minimize trauma to the tissues. The less injury that is inflicted to the tissues during the surgery translates to less pain during the recovery. This means handling all tissues with care and precision. The muscles, nerves and vessels are handled gently and with the utmost care. I always try to minimize any trauma to the rib periosteum (covering of the ribcage). Additionally, I try to avoid touching the ribs with my instruments and refrain from using electrocautery on the ribs. These techniques are key to minimizing postoperative pain and will decrease narcotic usage.
Another technique I use is to perform anesthetic intercostal blocks with long-lasting anesthetic during the surgery. This maneuver numbs the chest area for at least 12-16 hours after surgery. The first evening is generally the most uncomfortable time following surgery. If we can get a patient through this time period using the intercostal regional blocks, the patient feels much better and there is less need for total narcotics. The patient then only needs to take narcotics the next morning at a time when the discomfort is already starting to decrease as the healing progresses.
Q: What role do loved ones play in recovery?
DT: The support of family and friends is important to a smooth and easy recovery following breast augmentation. In the days prior to surgery, it is nice to have someone arranged to support the patient physically and emotionally postoperatively, as surgical recovery is a time when the aid of others will be helpful and even essential from time to time. During the first evening, someone should be looking after many of the patient’s needs, including helping with their medications, meals, and generally watching out for their well-being.
Q: How much should patients depend on the care of others?
DT: The first evening is the most important to have someone with you. During this time, the effects of the general anesthetic may still be present and you may still have some discomfort, so you will want and need someone to be around for help. Beyond the first evening, most people can be fairly independent and will not need much help apart from more strenuous tasks.
Q: What care do you and your practice provide to enhance each patient’s recovery process?
DT: Education and information about the recovery process is key to establishing a foundation for a patient’s smooth recovery. Before having the surgery, our patients will know what to expect and what to look for during the recovery period. This significantly cuts down on patients’ preoperative anxiety and unnecessary phone calls to the practice after surgery.
I ensure that patients know the care they receive does not end after the surgery is completed. I will personally call them on the first evening to see how they are doing, and the next morning the staff will also give them a call to check in and see if they have any questions or concerns that need to be addressed. In addition, all of our patients will be given my personal cell phone number should they need to reach me.
Contact Yorkville Institute of Plastic Surgery
For more information about breast augmentation, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Tong, please contact the Yorkville Institute of Plastic Surgery today.