A Patient’s Guide to Breast Surgery at UW Hospital and Clinics
This handout explains what to expect before
and after breast reconstruction surgery. We
are happy to answer any questions you may
have. This guide relates to:
ξ Expander to implant exchange
ξ Revision (touch up) of prior
ξ Fat transfer
You will get a call the day before surgery to
let you know when and where to go for
surgery and what time to stop eating and
You will also get a call to review all of your
medicines. You will be told which
medicines to stop before surgery and which
you can keep taking. In most cases, you
should stop taking all aspirin, ibuprofen,
(NSAIDs), vitamins, herbs, and supplements
7 days before surgery. Acetaminophen
(Tylenol®) is safe to take before surgery.
Let us know if you are sick or have a fever
You are either discharged the same day as
surgery or the day after. When you are sent
home from the hospital, you will have
phone numbers to call us. Someone will
answer your phone calls and see you if
You will likely have Steri-strips and/or a
surgical dressing over the incision. Steri-
strips are white strips of tape that are placed
over the incision. You should leave them on
for 2 weeks. Right after surgery, the steri-
strips will be covered by a larger dressing.
This dressing can be left in place until your
first post-op visit, or you can take it off if it
is soaked or does not stick to your skin.
On the day of discharge, you are told if you
can shower the same day or should wait 48
hours. When you take a shower, soapy water
can run over the dressings and incisions. Do
not soak in water (take a bath, swim, etc.)
for 3 weeks after surgery. Bruising and
swelling takes 1-2 weeks to go away.
If you have nipple reconstruction, leave the
dressings in place for 5-7 days. These help
to maintain the projection (height) of the
nipple. After the first post-op visit, you will
use callus foot pads to protect the nipple for
4 weeks. You can find these at any drug
store. We will show you how to use them.
Closely watch your incisions for a sudden
increase in pain, redness, or thick, cloudy
drainage. If you have these symptoms or a
fever over 101°F, call the clinic staff right
away at (608) 263-7502.
You will get a surgical bra to wear after
surgery. Plan to wear it at all times for the
first 2-3 weeks. At your first post-op clinic
visit, you are told how much longer you
need to wear your surgical bra. If this bra is
uncomfortable or causes a rash on your
chest, ask your doctor if it is ok to use a
After the first 2-3 weeks, you can switch to
any soft bra without underwire that is
comfortable. It does not need to provide
compression. Your breasts will change
shape and position as they heal. We suggest
that you do not get a fitted bra with an
underwire for at least 3 months after
You may also get a breast strap to use after
surgery. Bring this to your first post-op
visit. You will be told at that time whether
or not you need to use it. It is okay to use
extra gauze pads under your surgical bra for
padding over the incisions.
If you had liposuction (or fat grafting), you
will also have an abdominal binder or
compression pants. You should wear these
at all times for 2 weeks after surgery. You
should then wear them for half of the day for
another 2 weeks. The liposuction incisions
might ooze for the first 24 hours after
surgery. This is normal and will stop.
Seven days after surgery, you may begin to
gently massage your breasts. You should
massage your breasts for about one minute,
10-15 times per day. This should not cause
Exercise and Activity
First 2 days: You can take care of yourself
and do very little housework. Do not
exercise, lift more than 5 pounds, or stretch.
Day 3: You can slowly start doing light,
lower body aerobic exercise (walking,
stationary biking). Do not increase your
heart rate for the first 2 weeks after surgery.
Do not lift more than 15 pounds.
Day 10-14: You can start more physical
exercise that does not use your chest
muscles. You can ride a stationary bike, run,
yoga, stretch, etc. Do not do any exercise
that involves your chest (pec) muscles.
Day 21: You can swim.
Day 30: You can return to full activities.
Expect some soreness, but you should not be
If you have a sedentary job (working at a
desk or on a computer), you can go back to
work 5-10 days after surgery. If you have a
physical job (lifting boxes, working with
patients), you can go back to work 2-4
weeks after surgery.
Avoid any sexual activity that involves the
breasts for one month after surgery.
You are prescribed pain medicines
(narcotics) to use after your surgery. Take
these as prescribed for the first 2 days, and
then as needed. If you feel that your pain is
not bad enough to need narcotics, you may
use Tylenol® or ibuprofen instead.
You likely will not need prescription pain
medicines after the first week for any of
these surgeries. You should take food with
prescription pain medicines to avoid
stomach upset. We also suggest a stool
softener (docusate sodium, senna docusate,
etc.) to avoid constipation that can be caused
by these medicines.
Many breast reconstruction patients request
cosmetic procedures for other body parts.
We can often do these at the same time as
breast reconstruction surgery. Common
ξ Tummy tucks,
ξ Eyelid surgeries and brow lifts,
ξ Laser peels to the face,
Talk to Dr. Afifi if you are interested in any
other procedures. He will advise you on the
best procedure for you.
We will see you back in the clinic in about
5-7 days. You will get phone numbers to
call if you have any concerns or new
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©12/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7931