Cosmetic Surgery Tips

How Much Drainage Is Normal After Breast Reduction

Breast reduction surgery removes some of the breast tissue and skin from the breasts. This reshapes and lifts the breasts and reduces their size. It can also make the dark area around the nipple smaller. After surgery, you will probably feel weak. You may feel sore for 2 to 3 weeks. You also may feel pulling or stretching in your breast area. Although you may need pain medicine for a week or two, you can expect to feel better and stronger each day.

For several weeks, you may get tired easily or have less energy than usual. You also may have the feeling that fluid is moving in your breasts. This feeling is normal and will go away over time.

If your doctor closed your incisions with removable stitches, the stitches will be taken out in 7 to 14 days.

Your breasts may feel firmer and look rounder. Breast reduction may change the normal feeling in your breast. But in time, some feeling may return.

Keep in mind that it may take time to get used to your breasts after your surgery. You will have swelling at first. But the breasts will soften and develop better shape over time.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How Can You Care for Yourself at Home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • For about 2 to 3 weeks after surgery, or until your doctor says it’s okay, avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, a vacuum cleaner, or a child. Do not lift anything over your head for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • Ask your doctor when it is okay for you to have sex.
  • You can take your first shower the day after your drain or bandage is removed. This is usually within about 1 week. Sometimes doctors say it is okay to shower the day after surgery. Do not take a bath or soak in a hot tub for about 4 weeks.
  • You will probably be able to go back to work or your normal routine in 2 to 3 weeks. This depends on the type of work you do and any further treatment.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. Take a fibre supplement. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, take a mild laxative.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. Your doctor will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If you were given medicine for nausea, take it as directed.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Incision care

  • If your doctor gave you specific instructions on how to care for your incision, follow those instructions.
  • You may be wearing a special bra that holds your bandages in place after the surgery. Your doctor will tell you when you can stop wearing the bra. Your doctor may want you to wear the bra at night as well as during the day for several weeks. Do not wear an underwire bra for 1 month or until your doctor says it’s okay to do so.
  • If you have strips of tape on your incision, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off. Or follow your doctor’s instructions for removing the tape.
  • Wash the area daily with warm water, and pat it dry. Don’t use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
  • You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day. Consider having someone help you with this.

Exercise

  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Your doctor will tell you when to begin stretching exercises and normal activities.

Other instructions

  • You may have one or more drains near your incisions. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of them. Drains are usually removed in the first week after surgery.

Breast Reduction Drains vs No Drains

Breast reduction is a major operation that can help make your breasts feel smaller, lighter and give them a better shape.

If you’re feeling very distressed about the size of your breasts, or they’re causing problems like backache, you might be able to have a breast reduction on the NHS.

If you’re thinking about breast reduction to change your appearance, rather than for health reasons, you’ll need to pay for it privately.

How Much a Breast Reduction Costs

In the UK, breast reduction surgery costs around £6,500, plus the cost of any consultations or follow-up care.

What to think about before you have a breast reduction

Before you go ahead, be sure about why you want a breast reduction. Take time to think about your decision.

Choosing a surgeon

If you’re having a breast reduction in England, check with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). 

All independent clinics and hospitals that provide cosmetic surgery in England must be registered with the CQC.

Be careful when searching the internet for breast reduction surgery. Some clinics may pay to advertise their services on search listings.

Check the surgeon is registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). They should be listed on the specialist register and have a licence to practise.

Always book an appointment to meet the surgeon before the procedure.

Ask your surgeon:

  • about their qualifications and experience
  • how many breast reduction operations they have performed
  • how many operations they have performed where there have been complications
  • what sort of follow-up you should expect if things go wrong
  • what their patient satisfaction rates are

What Breast Reduction Involves

Breast reduction surgery is carried out under general anaesthetic. This means you’ll be asleep during the operation.

Generally, the operation involves:

  • moving your nipple to its new position – usually while it’s still attached to the blood supply
  • removing excess fat, glandular tissue and skin from your breasts
  • reshaping the remaining breast tissue

The operation takes 2 to 3 hours, depending on the extent of the breast reduction.

You’ll usually need to stay in hospital for 1 or 2 nights.

Afterwards

When you wake up after surgery, you’ll have dressings on your breasts and plastic tubes may be attached to them to drain blood away.

After 1 to 2 days, the tubes will be removed and you’ll usually be able to go home.

You may have some pain for a few days, which can be relieved with painkillers.

It’s likely your breasts will be swollen, and may feel tender and lumpy after surgery. The swelling may last for around 3 months.

You will not see what your breasts look like until the swelling has gone down.

Breast Reduction Recovery Week by Week

It can take 2 to 6 weeks to fully recover from breast reduction surgery.

You may need to take 2 to 3 weeks off work, and need help with housework, childcare and shopping.

You should not drive until it’s no longer painful to wear a seatbelt. This may be several weeks.

Avoid stretching, strenuous exercise and heavy lifting for up to 6 weeks after the operation.

Some surgeons suggest wearing a sports bra 24 hours a day for up to 3 months after breast surgery. Check with your surgeon.

The length of time you need to keep the dressings on depends on how quickly your wounds heal.

Stitches will need to be removed after a week or 2, unless they’re dissolvable.

Scars

You’ll probably have scars around your nipples.

You may also have a vertical scar running down your breast and a horizontal scar across the crease, below the breast (anchor-shaped).

Or you may only have a vertical scar running down your breast.

It depends on the type of surgery you have.

Scars are usually red for the first 6 weeks, but most fade over time and should be invisible under normal clothes, bras and bikini tops.

Common Problems After Breast Reduction Surgery

Breast reduction surgery can sometimes result in problems, including:

  • thick, obvious scarring
  • unevenly shaped breasts or nipples
  • wound healing problems
  • loss of nipple sensation
  • being permanently unable to breastfeed
  • red or lumpy breasts if the fat dies (fat necrosis)
  • excess skin left around the scars, which may need to be surgically removed
  • bleeding inside the breast tissue (haematoma) – this generally happens within the first 24 hours after the operation

Also, any type of operation carries a small risk of:

  • excessive bleeding
  • infection
  • an allergic reaction to the anaesthetic
  • a blood clot forming in the deep veins

Your surgeon should explain how likely these risks and complications are, and how they’d be treated if you have them.

What to do if you have problems

Cosmetic surgery can sometimes go wrong and the results may not be what you expected.

Contact the clinic where you had the operation as soon as possible if you have severe pain or any unexpected symptoms, such as red skin, burning, or unusual swelling on or around your breast.

If you’re not happy with the results of your breast reduction, or you think the procedure was not carried out properly, speak to your surgeon at the hospital or clinic where you were treated.

If you’re planning to have children

If you plan to have breast reduction surgery before having children (or more children), bear in mind that breasts can get larger again during pregnancy, which may affect the results of the operation.

There’s also a chance you will not be able to breastfeed after the operation.

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