Cosmetic breast surgery - discharge

You had cosmetic breast surgery to change the size or shape of your breasts. You probably were under general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free), or you may have had local anesthesia (awake and, pain-free). Your surgery took 1 - 6 hours, depending on the type of procedure you had.

You woke up with a gauze dressing or surgical bra around your breast and chest area. You may also have drainage tubes coming from your incision areas. Some pain and swelling is normal after the anesthesia wears off. You may also feel tired. Rest and gentle movement will help you recover. Your nurse will help you begin to move around.

You may spend 1 - 2 days in the hospital, depending on what surgery you had.

What to Expect at Home

It is normal to have pain, bruising, and swelling of the breast or incisions when you get home. Within a few days or weeks, these symptoms will go away. You may have a loss of sensation in your breast skin and nipples after surgery. Sensation will return over time.

You may need help with your everyday activities for 1 - 2 days until your pain and swelling decrease.

Incision scars will take several months to over a year to fade.


While you are healing, limit your physical activities so that you do not stretch your incisions. Try taking short walks as soon as possible to promote blood flow and healing. You may be able to do some activity 1 - 2 days after surgery.

Your doctor may show you special exercises and breast-massaging techniques. Do these at home if your doctor has recommended them.

Ask your doctor when you can go back to work or start other activities. You may need to wait 7 - 14 days.

Do NOT do any heavy lifting, strenuous exercise, or overstretching your arms for 3 - 6 weeks.

Avoid driving for at least 2 weeks. Do NOT drive if you are taking narcotic pain medicines. You should have full range of motion in your arms before you start driving again. Ease into driving slowly, since turning the wheel and shifting gears may be difficult.

Wound Care

Drainage tubes may need to be removed in 2 - 3 days. Any stitches will be removed within 2 weeks after surgery.

Keep the dressings or Steri-Strips on your incisions for as long as your doctor told you to. Make sure you have extras in case they fall off.

Keep the incision areas clean, dry, and covered. Check daily for signs of infection (redness, pain, or drainage).

Once you no longer need dressings, wear a soft, wireless, supportive bra night and day for 2 - 4 weeks.

You may shower after 2 days (if your drainage tubes have been removed). Do not take baths, soak in a hot tub, or go swimming until stitches and drains are removed and your doctor says it is okay.

Protect your scars from the sun for a year with a strong sunblock (SPF 30 or higher) whenever you are out in the sun.

Other Self-care

Make sure you are eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and antioxidants. Drink plenty of fluids, 8 - 10 glasses a day. A healthy diet and plenty of fluids will help promote bowel movements and prevent infection.

Your pain should go away in 1 - 2 weeks. Take all pain medicines as your doctor told you to. Take them with food and plenty of water. Do not apply ice or heat to your breasts unless your doctor tells you that is okay.

Do not drink alcohol while you are taking pain medicines. Do not take aspirin or aspirin-containing products. Ask your doctor which vitamins, supplements, and other medicines are safe to take.

Do not smoke. Smoking will slow your healing and increase your risk of complications and infection.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if you have:

  • Increasing pain, redness, swelling, yellow or green drainage, bleeding, or bruising at the incision site(s)
  • Side effects from medicines, such as rash, nausea, vomiting, or headache
  • A fever over 100 °F
  • Numbness or loss of motion

Also call your doctor if you notice the sudden swelling of your breast.

Alternate Names

Breast augmentation - discharge; Breast implants - discharge; Implants - breast - discharge; Breast lift with augmentation - discharge; Breast reduction - discharge


Burns JL, Blackwell SJ. Plastic surgery. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 73.

Update Date: 3/25/2011

Updated by: David A. Lickstein, MD, FACS, specializing in cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery, Palm Beach Gardnes, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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