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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

After breast reduction surgery

Ā muri i te poka whakawhāiti ū

This page tells you what you can expect straight after your breast reduction surgery and after you've gone home.

In hospital

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

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

Intravenous fluids: You'll have a drip until you're drinking normally again.

Preventing blood clots: Blood clots in the legs are a risk of surgery. To prevent them, you'll be fitted with compression stockings, which you'll need to wear until you're active at home. If you're at a higher risk of blood clots, you'll 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'll 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.

Leaving 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're discharged, you'll need someone to drive you home. Please arrange this in advance if possible.

At home

If you want telephone advice after you've left hospital:


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


Avoid lifting and activities using your arms until you're comfortable. It could be three to four weeks until you're 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 vary. 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're 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. Some could come 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 on 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's safe to shower on the third day. But do not soak the wounds in a bath or swimming pool until they're completely healed (this usually takes two weeks).

Pain relief

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

Follow-up appointment

You'll 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.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by Canterbury DHB Plastic Surgery Department. Last reviewed November 2020.


See also:

Communication cards in multiple languages

Pain relief for adults on discharge from hospital

Page reference: 85835

Review key: HIBRR-85826