Recovering From Breast Augmentation: What to Expect

It's the moment you have been waiting for. Almost. Your breast augmentation surgery is over, but you are about to embark on the breast augmentation recovery process. Here's what you can expect now.

Waking Up After Breast Augmentation

After you wake up and are brought into the recovery room, a nurse will monitor you until you are ready to be released. How long this takes varies, but usually it takes at least two hours. As the anesthesia wears off, you will feel sore and possibly confused. Your vision may be blurry and you may be extremely sleepy. If you feel any pain, ask for a pain reliever.

You may also feel very cold and start shivering immediately after your surgery. This is usually from the medications. The shivering can also be due to the temperature of the operating room and the ice packs typically applied to the breasts after breast implant surgery. Ask for a blanket if you feel uncomfortably cold.

If you have had general anesthesia, you may feel nauseated. Medication can help. Make sure to tell your surgeon or anesthesiologist if you don't feel well.

Icing Your Breasts After Breast Implant Surgery

Your surgeon may tell you to put cold compresses or ice packs on your breasts for the first 48 hours after surgery. You can buy cold compresses and ice packs at most drugstores.

TIP: You will need someone to drive you home from the hospital or surgical center.

Drains For Your Breast Augmentation Recovery

Your surgeon may have placed one or more drains in your incision to remove excess fluid. (The fluid may be pinkish or brownish.) These thin plastic tubes can be left in place for a few days or a week after surgery. Your surgeon should tell you how to care for and empty your drains.

Drains are usually removed painlessly at your first follow-up appointment. There may be a little irritation around the edges of the incision due to the drain.

Caring for Breast Implant Incisions

Keep your incisions/suture line dry. Your surgeon may have placed Steri-Strips on top of your incision line and sutures or you may have had internal sutures and tissue glue to bind the incision edges.

Do not let creams, lotions or topical arnica into the incision, as these products may cause inflammation.

Monitor Your Temperature

Take your temperature regularly during cosmetic plastic surgery recovery. An elevated temperature could mean you have an infection.


Take all the antibiotics that your doctor prescribes for as many days as the prescription says. Not doing so can result in an antibiotic-resistant infection.

Soreness and Pain After Breast Augmentation Surgery

If your breast implants are placed over your chest muscle, your recovery will most likely be shorter and less painful than if your implants are placed under the muscle. Pain medication, including Vicodin, Vicodin ES, Tylenol with codeine, and Percocet, can help. If you have combined your breast augmentation surgery with a breast lift, your breast lift recovery will add to your overall recuperation time.

Do not take pain relievers with aspirin or ibuprofen until your surgeon says that it is OK to do so, since they can cause excessive bleeding.

Swelling After Breast Implant Surgery

You may be swollen for three or four months after breast implant surgery. Drinking water, cutting back on salt and engaging in light exercise can help reduce this swelling (edema).

Do not take any over-the-counter or herbal diuretics unless advised to do so by your surgeon.

If you experience sudden swelling in the days after your surgery, call your surgeon.


You will probably have some bruising after your breast implant surgery, but this will fade. Certain herbal remedies such as arnica or bromelain may help. Ask your surgeon what he or she recommends. If you still have discolorations after several months, talk to your surgeon.

Sleeping With Your New Breasts

Sleeping is difficult right after your breast implant surgery. You have to sleep on your back with your upper back and head elevated to reduce swelling and pain. Be sure to have someone wake you up to take your meds, eat healthy meals, and drink your fluids.


You will not be able to shower until your incisions are closed and your sutures have been removed.

Tip: You may not be able to wash your hair for a week because you should not raise your hands over your head. Wash your hair the night before your surgery and braid it or place it in a ponytail.

Activities During Breast Augmentation Recovery

Walk around as soon as you are able while recovering from breast augmentation surgery. This will help prevent blood clots and can also help relieve swelling. Do not engage in strenuous activities, or exercise, for at least three to four weeks after your breast augmentation surgery.

Breast Scars and Keloid Prevention

Your incisions will heal slowly and scars will form. These scars may be raised and red before they eventually flatten and become paler.

Some people may develop lumpy, raised scars called keloids. If you have dark skin, you are more likely to form keloids. Talk to your surgeon about keloid prevention.

Visit our Scar Treatment Section for more information.

Loss of Sensitivity

You may lose some sensitivity in the nipple or the surrounding skin after breast augmentation surgery. This usually subsides within a few weeks. In rare cases, however, loss of sensation can be permanent. As sensation returns to your nipples and breasts, you may experience sharp pains, itchiness, heat, tingling and prickling. These temporary sensations occur because nerve function is returning.

Nipple Oversensitivity

Many women complain of very erect and sensitive nipples after breast implant surgery. You can protect your nipples by using a Band-Aid (especially the large round ones), large corn pads, or nursing pads. These pads will protect your overly sensitive nipples from the abrasiveness of your clothing and shield your erect nipples.

Breast Noises: Squeaks and Gurgles

Do not be alarmed if you hear gurgling, buzzing, or crackling noises coming from your augmented breasts. These noises may result from fluid build-up or air bubbles within the implant pocket. They can also be heard when the implant has not settled. This will likely pass in a few weeks.

Your New Breasts: Are They All You Dreamed They Would Be?

In the days and weeks right after your surgery, your breasts will be quite firm and will sit high up on your chest. Don't worry. They will soften up and will drop. Some surgeons may suggest that you use a strap or elastic bandage that is wrapped around your upper chest, under your arms and over the top half of your breasts. This strap helps push the implants down. Remember, the breast on your dominant side (your right side, if you are right-handed) may not drop as fast as the breast on your non-dominant side. In the weeks and months following your breast augmentation procedure, your breasts may appear "off" in shape or position. They also may feel itchy or sensitive. This is because your skin has been stretched over the implants, making your breasts very firm and high. The full results of your breast augmentation won't be seen completely for many weeks, so be patient.

Breast Implant Surgery Complications

The vast majority of breast augmentations go well, but no surgery is risk free. You will receive a list of things to look out for, such as temperature greater than 101° F or bleeding from the incision.

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    Joshua A. Greenwald, MD, FACS

    Greenwald Plastic Surgery
    166 5th Ave
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    New York City, NY 10010
    (914) 421-0113
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    Joshua A. Greenwald, MD, FACS

    Greenwald Plastic Surgery
    10 Chester Avenue
    Second Floor
    White Plains, NY 10601
    (914) 421-0113
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    Bahman Guyuron, MD

    29017 Cedar Road
    Lyndhurst, OH 44124
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