What to Expect During Breast Reduction Recovery

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Your recovery after breast reduction surgery will affect how your breasts look over time. Knowing how to take care of your incisions, how to control your pain and when to resume your exercise and other activities will help you obtain the best possible appearance after breast reduction.

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Surgery Follow-Up

Reduction mammaplasty, also known as breast reduction, is a surgical procedure that removes fat, glandular tissue, and skin from the breasts. It is performed under general anesthesia. As with any type of surgery, breast reduction surgery has a significant recovery period.

After your surgery, you will receive postoperative instructions. Follow them carefully so you can heal properly. The instructions will include the types of medication to apply to the surgical area, oral medications to take to help in healing and reducing the risk of infection, and when to follow up with the surgeon.

Within two weeks after surgery, your stitches will be removed. After about two weeks, you should be able to return to work, depending on what your profession is.

Keep in mind that you may want to avoid lifting heavy objects for several weeks after the procedure and you should avoid strenuous activity for at least six weeks, allowing the body to heal.

Recovery Timeline

You will wake up from the procedure wearing either an elastic bandage or surgical bra over the gauze and dressings. There will be sutures and possible drainage tubes. The drainage tubes will be in place for a few days after the procedure.

The First Week

Make sure to arrange to have some help in the days right after your surgery, so try and enlist a family member or a friend to attend you. Make sure that you are extremely comfortable with him or her because you will need assistance in washing and bathing. You will be unable to raise your arms without pain.

After Two Weeks

In addition, your breasts will be tender. There will be swelling and bruising which will gradually fade. You will probably experience some itching and dryness as the surgical area heals.

After the gauze and dressings have been removed, you will wear the surgical bra for the next several weeks. This helps to control swelling and hold the breasts in proper alignment, allowing the tissue to conform to the desired contour.

To reduce painful swelling, you should reduce your sodium intake and increase your water intake. This helps to flush the fluid out of the body.

Long-Term Recovery Considerations

Everyone may recover from surgery differently. For instance, some patients may experience hypersensitivity of the area. Some patients may experience numbness of the area, for up to a year, following surgery. And there are some patients, who may not have any of these sensations.

Also, how people heal from scars can also be different. There will be visible scars that may fade over time but, in many cases, will not disappear.

For women, the breasts may swell and become tender at the first menstrual cycle after the procedure. Patients may continue to experience sporadic pain, especially during menstruation, for several months after the procedure.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Breast reduction. University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. 2019.

  2. Breast Reduction. American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

  3. Breast Reduction Guide. American Board of Cosmetic Surgery.

  4. Breast Reduction. Mount Sinai. 2019.

  5. Breast reduction. US National Library of Medicine. 2019.

Additional Reading
  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Breast Reduction Recovery. 

  • Cohen BE, Ciaravino ME. Reduction Mammaplasty. In Evans GRD, ed. Operative Plastic Surgery. New York: McGraw Hill, 2000.
  • Hall-Findlay EJ. Vertical Reduction Mammaplasty. 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.