Swelling is an important topic in the field of plastic surgery. Pretty much everyone will experience it to some degree after any surgical procedure, breast reduction included, and unfortunately, it obscures the final results for quite some time.
Despite warning patients about this well in advance, it is common for them to call the office a few weeks after their reduction, asking why their breasts are larger than they had expected. This is understandable as smaller is the goal, and most people — plastic surgeons included — struggle with being impatient.
If you are planning your procedure and are worried about swelling after breast reduction, here is what you need to know.
Swelling Gets Better after the First Week
You can anticipate that your swelling will be at its worst in the first week after your reduction. This is the body’s natural inflammation response to surgery as it interprets it as an injury. As your surgical sites heal, the body stops fighting so hard and the inflammation response lessens.
However, better doesn’t mean gone.
Most patients need around 4 weeks for swelling to go down enough that they can get a good idea of what their final results will look like. But note that I said, “will look like.” This is because minor swelling will continue to obscure the exact final results of your breast reduction. Residual swelling lasts up to 9 months. If you add other procedures to your reduction, such as a lift, this might last a few months longer.
Keep in mind that this will impact when it is a good time to buy new bras. We suggest waiting 6 weeks, and at that point, just purchase cheaper bras rather than investing in special pieces. You will need to avoid underwire for three months as it is, so it is a good idea to wait until that time to start purchasing nicer bras.
Limiting Swelling after Breast Reduction
There is nothing you can do to fully eliminate swelling. With that said, there are steps you can take to limit it and help it pass faster. These include:
Drink Lots of Water
While you shouldn’t overdo it, staying hydrated improves your body’s ability to heal by flushing out the system. This, in turn, tells the body to stop the inflammation sooner. We suggest drinking two to three liters of water per day during the recovery period.
Get Your Nutrients
Eating a healthy, nutritionally varied diet is great for reducing postoperative swelling. Focus on a mixture of:
- Complex carbs
- Vitamins and minerals
Doing so speeds up healing and helps to lessen fluid retention.
Focus on Physical Activity
Directly after surgery, resting is key. But even on the day of your surgery, you will want to get up and walk just a bit. Increase your movement every day while avoiding strenuous activity until given clearance from your doctor. This will help with swelling and reduce your risk of developing a blood clot.
Follow Doctor’s Instructions
While it can be a bummer to keep your doctor’s instructions in mind for weeks after surgery, it is important. Your surgeon tailors their advice to ensure the best outcomes, and that includes reduced swelling. Keep it up and you will be looking at your final results sooner rather than later.
Dr. Chang earned his medical degree from Columbia University after graduating magna cum laude from Yale, and then completed a combined general and plastic surgery residency at Stanford University Medical Center, where he served as chief resident. After becoming a board-certified plastic surgeon, he returned to his home state and established Columbia Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, one of the premier cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery practices between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.