Postoperative Instructions

Postoperative Instructions

What You Should Expect After Surgery

  1. Swelling is normal. It often goes away in a few days.
  2. Bruising is common and may last for a few weeks. Due to the effects of gravity, bruising may drift to the bottom of the breast.
  3. Pain after surgery is normal. Your surgeon may provide prescription pain medications for use after surgery, which may be needed for several days. Stabbing pain may occur and is not uncommon.
  4. There may be firmness under the incision. This “healing ridge” will be present for several months. The ridge will soften over time.


  1. Ice is often helpful in easing discomfort, but be sure and check with your surgeon as to when and if ice may be used. In some cases involving reconstruction, your surgeon may not want you to use ice.
  2. If you have been given a breast binder, wear it as your surgeon instructs. It may also be worn for comfort during your recovery.
  3. Wear a supportive bra for comfort at least for the first few days, including at night while sleeping.
  4. If your surgeon has placed a bandage on your incision, follow his or her instructions as to when it may be removed. Also follow your surgeon’s instructions on when you can get your incision wet. If you have Steri-Strips, or “butterfly bandages,” on your incision, leave them in place. The bandages will eventually loosen and come off on their own. Your surgeon may have used a surgical glue, or “liquid bandage.” This should be kept dry for at least 24 hours and will eventually wear off.
  5. If you have a drain in place, keep it dry. Do not change the drain dressing unless you have been instructed to by your surgeon. You will need to keep track of the drain output, which will help your surgeon determine when your drain can be removed.
  6. Discuss scarring treatments with your surgeon before using them on your incisions.

Activity, Diet, and Medication

  1. Eat normally once your anesthesia has worn off.
  2. Ask your surgeon about resuming your normal preoperative medications, especially blood thinners (anticoagulants).
  3. Take narcotic pain medications with food. Taking narcotic pain medications on an empty stomach may cause nausea. If nausea occurs, drink small amounts of liquids frequently. If nausea is persistent, call your doctor.
  4. Should you develop a rash or itching when taking a new medication, notify your doctor as you may have to discontinue one of your medications.
  5. Be aware that some pain medications contain acetaminophen (Tylenol). Keep track of your total acetaminophen intake. Do not take more than the maximum daily dose of acetaminophen, or Tylenol.
  6. Ask your surgeon when you may resume driving. Do not drive or operate machinery while taking pain medication, other than acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  7. Do not do strenuous exercise with your upper body until you see your doctor one week after surgery.

Call Your Surgeon If You Experience Any of the Following:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Excessive swelling
  • Persistent and severe pain that is not helped by your pain medication
  • Fever, with an oral temperature over 101oF
  • Reaction to medications


Smoking after surgery will prevent your body’s ability

to properly heal and may lead to complications.