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Breast Enlargement Surgery Recovery: Expectations and Outcomes

If you’re considering breast enlargement surgery, you may be wondering what the recovery will be like. You may have heard from your neighbor that it’s no big deal and she was back to work the next day. Or maybe your co-worker said she was out of commission for weeks with the worst pain she’s ever had. Doing your own research, looking at data, and talking to a board-certified plastic surgeon will give you more information than anecdotal evidence. As with any surgery, recovery will vary, but researching typical experiences, listening to your surgeon, and setting realistic expectations are your first steps toward a great outcome.

What to Expect During Surgery

Before you prepare for recovery, you should know what will happen during your surgery. Your doctor will recommend a type of anesthesia, typically general anesthesia or IV sedation. Before the procedure, your surgeon will discuss incision options and most likely recommend one of the following incisions based on their experience, your implant choice, and your desired outcome.

  • Periareolar incision: round the nipple
  • Inframammary incision: in the breast fold
  • Transaxillary incision: under the arm

After making the incision, your surgeon will place the implant either subglandular (above the chest wall muscles) or submuscular (below the chest wall muscles). Silicone gel implants are pre-filled, but saline-filled implants can be inserted empty, then filled with a predetermined amount of saline–meaning it can be inserted through a smaller incision, resulting in less scarring. With saline-filled implants, such as the IDEAL IMPLANT® Structured Breast Implant, the surgeon can adjust for asymmetry by adding a little more or less saline during surgery until the breasts look symmetrical. After the implant is placed and filled, the surgeon will close the incision. Your surgeon may use stitches, glue, or tape to keep the incision closed.

After Your Breast Enlargement Surgery

The most important thing you can do for a good surgery outcome is listen to your surgeon’s instructions. Gauze, an elastic bandage, or a support bra will be needed to provide support while your breasts heal. Your breasts will look different immediately, but some swelling and bruising are normal. Recovery in the hospital or outpatient center typically does not take long, and many patients go home the same day. If you plan to leave the same day, make sure you have a trusted friend or family member to drive you home and stay with you for the first 24-hours. Your surgeon may prescribe medication to manage pain and antibiotics to prevent an infection. Take these medications as directed to reduce risks and complications. Call your surgeon or go to the ER immediately if you begin to notice signs of an infection. Don’t try to get back into the swing of things just yet, take it easy, and allow your body to heal.

Post-op: the First Few Weeks

Your surgeon will likely recommend taking one- to two-weeks off work, depending on your work environment. Stay away from physical activities until you are cleared by your doctor, which may take six weeks. This is not only to make sure your incision heals properly but to keep you from doing activities that could raise your pulse or blood pressure. Remember, you just had surgery! Give your body time to heal, and you will reap the benefits of patience. Realself has suggestions of a few things to do or buy before your surgery so you can take it easy when you get home.

Getting Back to Normal

Swelling, bruising, and soreness are all par for the course after you have breast enlargement surgery. Different women will experience varying levels of pain and swelling but know that a normal recovery happens anywhere from a few weeks to a few months or more. Tightness and pain should lessen over the first few days, and you should be able to switch from strong painkillers to milder ones within the first month. Swelling and settling over the first few months means that the appearance of your breast implants will change slightly from when you first see them. As long as you are following your doctor’s instructions, there is no need to worry about bruising, this symptom is common within the first few days to weeks. However, if you feel worried at any point in your recovery, call your surgeon for a follow-up appointment. Wearing a compression bra or a sports bra will help you heal by giving you extra support, especially when you begin to exercise. Scars are an unavoidable part of breast enlargement surgery but should decrease over time.  

Long-Term Maintenance

After the swelling, bruising, and pain go away, you can enjoy your new body. Your surgeon will inform you of any follow-up visits you need to schedule and what common complications to be aware of. Continue to get mammograms (or begin getting mammograms when you reach 40 years old, as recommended by the American Cancer Society). Let the person doing your mammogram know you have breast implants. The implants may interfere with a standard mammogram, so you will need a different technique performed to get a clear picture. If you chose saline implants, such as the IDEAL IMPLANT® Structured Breast Implant, you would not need any special monitoring for rupture after surgery, since you know the implants are intact by looking in the mirror. Periodic monitoring for rupture with MRI scans is recommended for those with silicone gel implants, however, because of the risk of “silent rupture.” The FDA recommends all implants be removed if they rupture, but it can be difficult to detect a rupture in a silicone gel implant. An MRI is the only way to detect a silent rupture and determine if removal is necessary. Because of this, the FDA recommends women with silicone gel implants get an MRI three years after the procedure, then every two years for the rest of their life. Silicone-gel is not absorbed by the body like saline is, and according to the FDA “When silicone gel-filled implants rupture, silicone gel may escape from the scar tissue capsule around the implant and migrate away from the breast. This can cause lumps to form in the breast, chest wall, armpit, arm, or abdomen.”

Your Breast Enlargement Surgery Journey

Knowing the ins and outs of breast enlargement surgery recovery will help you get the best outcome. Your breast implants will be part of your body for many years, so put in the effort to find a great doctor, pick the right breast implants for you, and educate yourself about the surgical and recovery process. Knowing what to expect will help you plan accordingly and not be surprised or upset by the processes. It may seem like a long road to beautiful results, but when you look back ten years from now, you will wish you started sooner. If you’re looking for a breast implant that is low maintenance and has a low risk of capsular contracture and rupture ask your surgeon about the IDEAL IMPLANT® Structured Breast Implant. To find a surgeon who offers the IDEAL IMPLANT near you visit the surgeon finder.