Cosmetic Surgery Tips

Breast incision healing stages

The incision that is made during a breast lift procedure will be painful and itchy for the first few days. Over time, the skin will heal and the pain should decrease.

The healing process after breast surgery, including breast augmentation or breast lift, typically follows a similar timeline. In this guide, we review the aspects of Breast incision healing stages, surgical scar healing stages, breast augmentation recovery tips, and What to do if your breast incision opens?

Breast incision healing stages

Breast augmentation is one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures performed in the United States. Each year, hundreds of thousands of women experience the life-changing benefits associated with an improved breast appearance.

Before moving forward with your procedure, it’s important to understand what to expect during every stage of the process. Breast augmentation is major surgery, and there is a significant recovery period. While the overwhelming majority of women find that it’s worth undergoing this lengthy healing process, you should be aware of the road to recovery that lies ahead of you.

Stage 1: The Day of Your Surgery

Breast augmentation is performed on an outpatient basis, and you will return home the day of your procedure. Since you’ll still be under the lingering effects of anesthesia, you’ll need to arrange for someone to drive you home. It’s also important to have someone around the house for the rest of the day in case you need assistance.

You’ll need to get plenty of rest and stay hydrated on this first day of recovery. We recommend that you set up a comfortable recovery area prior to your procedure. It should include:

  • Extra pillows and blankets for optimal comfort
  • A place to easily access water and snacks without bending over
  • Plenty of entertainment (movies, books, music) to keep you occupied while you relax

We recommend that you prepare some healthy, nutritious meals in advance that you can easily reheat since you won’t feel up to cooking. You should also fill all prescriptions in advance so that they’ll be on-hand when you get home from surgery.

Stage 2: First 5-7 Days after Surgery

This is typically the most uncomfortable phase of your recovery. It’s common to experience:

  • Bruising and swelling around the breasts which will gradually subside as you heal
  • Discomfort which can be managed with pain medication

You should start feeling much better towards the end of this first week of recovery. Dr. Lee encourages light walking as soon as you feel up to it. This will facilitate proper blood flow and help prevent blood clots. Always listen to your body and rest if you feel you need to.

Stage 3: 1-3 Weeks after Surgery

During this phase of recovery, you will be able to gradually resume your regular routine. In general, most women are able to return to work within one to two weeks after breast augmentation. If your job requires heavy lifting or other strenuous physical activity, you may need to take additional time off to ensure your body is sufficiently healed.

Bruising, swelling and discomfort should have substantially subsided by this point. Dr. Lee will carefully monitor your recovery and let you know when it is safe to resume normal activities and light exercise. Light cardio activities can be incorporated into your routine at this point, but you will still need to refrain from strenuous activities. When resuming exercise, it’s important to start slow and gradually ramp up your efforts as your body gets stronger.

Stage 4: 4-6 Weeks after Surgery

By now, you will be sufficiently recovered to begin adding more strenuous activity back into your routine. Always wait until Dr. Lee tells you it is safe to resume specific activities to prevent complications.

Intense cardio and lower body exercises can be resumed after about four weeks. However, you’ll need to refrain from heavy lifting and chest exercises until you are roughly six weeks out of surgery.

Stage 5: Final Results

It can take as long as three to four months before you are able to see your final results. This is due to the fact that it takes time for your breast implants to settle into their proper position and for all residual swelling to subside. While you’ll want to experience your new appearance as soon as possible, it’s important to be patient during this process.

Dr. Lee recommends waiting to purchase new bras and bikinis until your final results are visible since your breast size and appearance may still undergo slight changes for several months.

surgical scar healing stages

Surgical scars go through several stages of healing as the body repairs itself. Here are the general stages of surgical scar healing:

  1. Inflammatory phase: This is the initial phase of healing, which lasts about 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. During this phase, the body produces an inflammatory response to the trauma caused by surgery. The incision site may appear red, swollen, and painful.
  2. Proliferative phase: This phase lasts from about 2 to 4 weeks after surgery. During this time, the body produces new collagen and other connective tissues to fill in the wound. The scar tissue may appear raised and pink or red.
  3. Remodeling phase: This phase can last for several months to a year after surgery. During this phase, the body continues to produce collagen and other connective tissues, but at a slower rate. The scar tissue may become less raised and start to fade in color.

It’s important to note that every person’s body and healing process is different, and the timeline for scar healing can vary. Additionally, factors such as the size and location of the incision, as well as the individual’s age, overall health, and genetics, can also impact the appearance and healing of surgical scars.

To promote optimal scar healing, it’s important to follow your surgeon’s post-operative instructions, including keeping the incision site clean and dry, avoiding strenuous activity, and using scar creams or silicone sheets as recommended. In some cases, your surgeon may recommend scar massage or other therapies to help promote scar healing.

breast augmentation recovery tips

With an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon by your side, you can expect your breast augmentation recovery to go smoothly and quickly. In fact, many women are back to work and routine activities in three to five days. However, an easy recovery will depend on several factors, including how prepared you are to pamper yourself during those first vital days. Keep in mind these four tips for a healthy recovery following your breast augmentation.

Plan for assistance

While breast augmentation recovery is not extremely difficult, you will have just undergone major surgery. Therefore, for the first few days, you will be sore and tired. For six weeks, you should not do any heavy lifting, and this includes picking up children under 20 pounds. Plus, no driving until you are finished with all narcotic pain medications. It is recommended that you schedule assistance with household chores and with the kiddos for the first 24 to 72 hours. Even just having a friend stop by each day to check in on you will behelpful.

Proper pain management

It is common to experience mild to moderate discomfort immediately after a breast augmentation procedure. Some women will feel pressure and tightness across their chest. Your doctor will prescribe a few days of pain medication to help you make it comfortably through the early recovery. However, many women find that after the first post-op day, they need nothing more than over-the-counter pain medications. Fill your doctor’s prescriptions prior to the day of your breast augmentation, so that if you get home to find that you need pain or anti-nauseous medications, they are close at hand.

Get plenty of rest and sleep

Getting enough rest during your breast augmentation recovery sounds like a no-brainer, but for some people, this is easier said than done. Make sure you have a quiet room set aside, as well as a comfortable bed to rest in, for the first few days. Have plenty of pillows, so you can prop yourself up at a comfortable angle. Some DVDs, books and magazines will help pass the time. You will be walking immediately after surgery, slowly regaining your strength. Just remember to listen to your body, getting plenty of sleep and relaxation, as you heal.

Have plenty of light, healthy foods and water at home

Before heading to the surgical center for your breast augmentation, stock your kitchen with easy to prepare food and plenty of water. For the first post-op day, you may be nauseous from the anesthesia or not have much of an appetite, so soft, light foods are best. Make sure you have a healthy variety of foods on hand, to give your body energy and strength to heal over the following week. It is easy to become dehydrated during this time period, so drink water, water and more water.

Armed with clear and detailed information about the post-op period, you will be ready to rest, recover and relish your new breasts! For more information on breast augmentation, check out the before/after photographs from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. If you have not yet settled on a trusted, skilled surgeon, these experts have a tool to help you find a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area. Get started with a consultation to make sure all of your questions are answered, and remember, carefully follow all of your surgeon’s pre- and post-breast augmentation recommendations.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

What to do if your breast incision opens

T-junction breakdown is one of the most common complications following breast reduction or breast lift surgery. This occurs when there is delayed wound healing in the area where the vertical and horizontal suture lines meet, at the base of the breast.

This area bears the most tension, and the most compromised blood supply, following surgery and is therefore most prone to breakdown in the superficial skin layers.

T-junction breakdown presents as a small opening in the incision line, sometimes with redness and ooze (examples, pictured right).

Although this delayed healing is typically short lived and resolves with minor wound management, everyone hopes they’ll have the ‘perfect’ recovery and so it can be distressing for patients to have healing setbacks.

When noticed early and managed well by the patient at home in conjunction with their clinic nurse, the wound heals quickly and results in only minor scarring, which improves over time.

breast reduction lift

Although sometimes unavoidable, prevention is always better than cure. There are a few simple steps you can take to help your surgical wounds to heal in the t-junction area:

  • Suture lines like to be dry. Showering is okay 24hrs after your surgery, but it is important to get your tapes extra dry afterwards.  We recommend pressing out any excess water from your tapes with a clean towel, then using a hairdryer set on cool, to dry off the tapes before replacing your garment. 
  • Always pay attention to your tapes in the first 3 weeks following your surgery. Although some signs of weeping through the tape is normal, if you have more than a 5-cent piece sized area of weeping, you should be in contact with your clinic for advice. 
  • After the first 3 weeks you can remove your surgical tapes. We then recommend applying silicone tape to your scars for the next three months.  Suture lines must be 100% healed before silicone tape can be used. Placing silicone tape over even the smallest of wound breakdowns can make them larger.
  • Small breakdowns can occur up to six weeks following your surgery, so please don’t become complacent. Any sign of weeping on your garment, check your suture lines. Always be in touch with your clinic if you are concerned. 
  • Pay attention to how you are feeling and get in touch with the clinic if you notice any signs of infection (these are detailed in your post op instructions). 
  • Don’t smoke; this is one of the biggest factors in delayed wound healing. 
  • Eat well; good nutrition helps support your skin healing and overall recovery. Sugary, salty or processed foods can contribute to overall poor health, fluid/swelling retention and difficulty fighting infections that can opportunistically set up in the open t-junction wound. Consult your GP or a nutritionist if you need assistance with your diet to ensure the best possible recovery. 

What should I do if I have a wound breakdown?

Even with diligent care, t-junction breakdowns can happen.  If this is the case, your post operative plastic surgery nurse will be skilled and experienced in the best way to manage your incision. They will review the area and provide you with detailed instructions. It is important to follow these closely and speak to your nurse if you are confused or have any questions.

  • The area needs to be kept clean and dry. 
  • Do not apply any occlusive or waterproof dressings.  
  • Protect the area from rubbing – and absorb weeping by using a cotton round/makeup pad taped across the area.  Remove the pads gently in the shower, making sure not to pull the pad away if it is stuck – this only removes the healing that has occurred that day – but rather soak the pad off under the warm shower water. 
  • Betadine solution can be dabbed on to the area daily, this help keep bacteria away while helping dry the area out.

In time, your breakdown will become a small scab and will heal from the inside out. T-junction breakdowns are rarely re-sutured as it can cause more scarring and delayed healing. 

Will this area scar much worse than the other sealed areas of scarring?

It is likely that your scar will be more prominent in this area, although that will depend on your natural predisposition to scarring. It is difficult to predict what your scars will look like, but over the subsequent 24 mths most patients find they mature, soften and lighten significantly. If your surgeon thinks you would benefit from scar revision down the track (6-12 mths at least after surgery, to give the area time to heal) this can certainly be explored, but is rarely necessary as the body usually does a good job of naturally optimising the residual scar over time. Non surgical options such as steroid injections, laser and microneedling are also available. 

What if I see a suture through the wound?

It is common to see exposed dissolvable sutures in a t-junction breakdown. This is not cause for alarm, but we do like to trim these away. Once the dissolvable suture is above the skin’s surface the wound does not like to heal around them, and therefore removing them is best.  Please contact your clinic to see your nurse. 

With diligent home care, good health, and monitoring from your plastic surgery nurse, wound breakdowns will heal. Stay in regular contact with the clinic and don’t hesitate to book additional post operative appointments in to support you through this healing period. 

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