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HealthInfo Canterbury

After your breast reduction surgery

In hospital

You will wake up in the recovery room after your operation. You can read about what to expect when you wake up from an anaesthetic.

Mobilising: It is best to get out of bed as soon as you have recovered from the anaesthetic. It may be uncomfortable to move your arms at first, though gentle movement is good to prevent shoulder stiffness. It is common to feel tired or lethargic after surgery.

Intravenous fluids: You will have a drip until you are drinking normally again.

Preventing blood clots: Blood clots in the legs are a risk of surgery. To prevent them you will be fitted with compression (TED) stockings, which you will need to wear until you are active at home. If you are at higher risk of blood clots you will also get a daily injection.

Wound drains: You might have plastic tubes to drain fluid from your wounds. These are usually taken out the day after your operation.

Pain relief: You will be given several pain relief options. You may use patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) and oral medication. Your doctors will discuss this with you.

Breast support: Your breasts will be more comfortable in the sports-type bra you brought in with you.

When can you leave hospital?

Most people stay in hospital for one to three nights. The length of your stay depends on your health and how quickly you recover. When you are discharged, you will need someone to drive you home. Please arrange this in advance if possible.

At home


See your GP (or go to an after-hours GP) as soon as possible if you have:

If you want telephone advice after you have left hospital:


Avoid lifting and activities using your arms until you are comfortable. Everyone is different but it could be three to four weeks until you are comfortable doing things like lifting children, driving and gentle sports. Avoid vigorous exercise and sweating for at least the first week.


Everyone's work and healing varies. Most women take between two and six weeks off work.

Breast support

Wear your sports-type bra 24 hours a day for the first month (take it off for showers). As the swelling reduces, move into a smaller cup size to make sure you are getting the right support. After that time, you may need to shop for new bras. Underwire bras may be uncomfortable for another few months.

Wound care

Your stitches will dissolve by themselves. There could be some coming out of the skin, and they will fall off in the first month. See your GP if these are causing any irritation.

The wounds will be covered in adhesive strips in the operating theatre. Leave the strips until they fall off. Then replace them with 1 cm­ to 2 cm‑wide paper tape from a pharmacy. Keeping the scar line covered reduces the risk of lumpy, itchy or wide scars forming. Continue covering the scars with the tape for three to six months, or until the scars fade from red to white.

It is safe to shower on the third day. However, don't soak the wounds in the bath or a swimming pool until they are completely healed over (this usually takes two weeks).

Pain relief

Take the regular pain relief pills prescribed by the hospital. As you become more comfortable, continue taking regular paracetamol (two pills, four times a day) but take less of the other pills. When you are comfortable taking only regular paracetamol, start taking it just when you need it.

Follow-up appointment

You will have an appointment at the Plastic Surgery Department to review the operation result.

Further surgery

In the months after surgery, the shape and skin of your breasts will change. Some women have concerns, which can usually be dealt with by day-stay surgery.

On the next page: More information about breast reduction surgery

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Approved by Canterbury DHB Plastic Surgery Department 25 June 2014.


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