When you arrive for your breast reconstruction procedure, you'll receive detailed instructions regarding your post-operative care routine. It's important that you follow these instructions carefully to ensure proper healing and the best possible results.

Below is an overview of the post-operative routine you'll need to follow. We encourage you to ask us any questions you may have regarding this phase of your treatment during your consultation. You can learn more about your breast reconstruction options by speaking to our plastic surgeons in person. Please call 720-457-4461 today to schedule a consultation. We serve patients in the Denver, Colorado area.

Diet

Start with clear liquids and toast or crackers. If those are well tolerated, progress to a regular diet.

For flap-based procedures, progress with a light diet. Smaller, more frequent meals will help prevent bloating. Limit caffeine and chocolate for the 1 week.

Wound Care

Keep your dressings clean, dry, and intact for the first week. Your surgeon will take down your dressing at your one-week follow-up visit. If your dressings get wet while showering, pat them dry. If the dressings fall off, replace with dry gauze.

All of your sutures will be under the skin. You will either have a layer of skin glue that resembles clear nail polish or steri-strips, similar to tape, on all of your incisions. Please do not remove the steri-strips. Your surgeon will remove the dressings, if needed. 

Special Wound Care Instructions for Implant-Based Procedures

You will have a 1 or 2 drains in each breast. A drain kit with instructions and teaching by the nursing staff will be provided at the hospital. Empty and record (in “cc” amounts) the drainage amount once or twice per day after discharge from the hospital and bring your drain record with you to each clinic appointment. 

You may feel and see the expander under the skin most pronounced at the midline.

Special Wound Care Instructions for Autologous Reconstruction Procedures

A wire will be attached to each flap of post-operative monitoring while in the hospital. You will have a drain in the breast and both sides of the abdomen (DIEP Flap) or the Latissimus Site (Latissimus Flap). A drain kit with instructions and teaching by the nursing staff will be provided at the hospital. Empty and record (in “cc” amounts) the drainage amount once or twice per day after discharge from the hospital and bring your drain record with you to each clinic appointment.

Pain & Swelling

While in the hospital, your pain will be monitored very carefully. Pain medication will be prescribed to you to use as needed postoperatively. Pain is best controlled with lower doses of multiple medications such as Tylenol, Celebrex and narcotics.

You can expect moderate swelling in the reconstructed breast, underarm and abdomen.  You will have numbness in the reconstructed breast and abdomen for up to 12 months. 

If you choose an autologous reconstruction method, you will have a pain catheter in your abdomen to help with pain control. It uses a numbing medication, not a narcotic. It is often removed at home by the patient or family. If you leave the hospital with pain catheters in place, the nursing staff will teach you to remove them. You may also experience tightness in the abdomen for the first 3 months – the abdominal binder will help support this donor site. 

Garments

You will have an abdominal binder to wear for approximately 3-4 weeks following your surgery. It is important to wear this compression garment until your doctor tells you it is no longer needed. If desired, you may switch to a control-top garment (Spanx) for prolonged wear.

Do not wear a compressive bra for the first 3 weeks. You may wear a light camisole for gentle support.

Medications

Take pain medication as needed for up to 4 weeks in moderation and at night if needed. While you are taking pain medicine, you are encouraged to follow a high fiber diet or take a stool softener such as Colace (available over the counter), as pain medications tend to cause constipation.

Do not take Motrin/Ibuprofen or Aspirin products for 1 week after surgery. Ask your surgeon when you may resume your blood thinning medications. All other prescription medications may be resumed immediately, as discussed with your physician. Take your full course of antibiotics if prescribed by your surgeon.

Activity

You may walk and climb stairs immediately following surgery. After 2 weeks you may resume moderate activity such as brisk walking. No sexual activity for 3 weeks. During the first 3-4 weeks, do not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk (approximately 10 pounds). After 6 weeks you may resume more strenuous aerobic work and lifting activities. No abdominal exercises for at least 8 weeks.

Bathing

You may shower and wash your hair 48 hours after surgery. You may get your incisions wet, but do not direct the water spray at your incision site. Pat dressings dry. Do not submerge the incision in a bath, swimming pool or hot tub for the first 4-6 weeks.

Additional Bathing Instructions for Autologous Reconstruction Procedures

Shower only for the first 30 days post-operative. Try to keep the shower directed at your back and not at your incision or dressing. It is okay if the dressing gets wet in the shower. Pat it dry after your shower. Support your drains in the shower around your neck or waist.

Sleeping

During the first 2 weeks, place pillows under your head and knees. Sleeping in a recliner may be most comfortable to keep the upper body supported. After the first 2 weeks, sleeping on your side and back is permitted, but not on your stomach. After 4 weeks, resume normal and comfortable sleeping positions.

Driving

No driving for 3 weeks after your procedure or longer if you are taking pain medicine.

Smoking, Alcohol, and Cannabis

Do not smoke for the first several weeks after surgery as it impedes wound healing and can lead to serious wound complications. Alcohol consumption and smoking of any kind is dangerous while taking pain medicine. It has a tendency to worsen bleeding. If you use cannabis/marijuana, please discuss with your physician.

Post-Operative Appointment

Your first follow-up visit will be approximately 1 week after surgery. Your surgeon will then see you at appropriate intervals after this to monitor your progress.

Work

For Implant-Based Procedures

Depending on your career and your rate of healing, you should be able to return to work within 1-2 weeks of surgery. Your surgeon will be able to give you a better estimate depending on your physical and professional profile.

For Autologous Reconstruction Procedures

Depending on your career and your rate of healing, you should be able to return to work within 4 to 6 weeks of surgery. If your job involves heavy lifting, please allow 8 to 12 weeks before returning to work. Your surgeon will be able to give you a better estimate depending on your physical and professional profile. Flying or traveling is permitted after the first week as tolerated. 

Physical Therapy

A prescription for physical therapy will be given to you at either your pre-operative appointment or your first post-operative appointment. Gentle range of motion exercises are encouraged during the first 2 weeks.

Special Considerations

Call your surgeon immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Excessive pain
  • Rapidly expanding swelling under the skin
  • Bleeding
  • Redness at the incision site or pus drainage from incision
  • Spreading, bright pink discoloration
  • Fever over 101.5° F.

Call 911 if you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency. Such symptoms include severe shortage of breath, chest palpitations, sudden or severe chest pain, or other life-threatening concerns.

Contact our Denver Breast Surgeons

Please contact The Breast Center Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery using the form on this page or call 720-457-4461 today to schedule your breast reconstruction consultation. We serve patients in Denver, Lone Tree and the surrounding areas of Colorado.