Swelling after Breast Augmentation Surgery

As with every surgery, some swelling should be expected after a breast augmentation procedure and the amount that occurs can vary considerably.  Patient can reduce the amount of swelling after the surgery if they follow the doctor's instructions on the list of medications that should be avoided before the surgery.  Doctors recommend this because certain medications can increase bleeding after surgery, which contributes to swelling and slows recovery. 

Superior Pole Fullness

Most of what people refer to as 'swelling' is, in reality, a displacement of the fluid in the implant to the upper pole of the breast due to the tightness of the lower chest muscle initially after surgery.  The lower pole of the breast is much tighter than the upper pole so the saline or silicone gel is displaced to the upper pole of the implant creating a lot of fullness above the breasts on the chest.  As this muscle stretches and relaxes, the breast implant material flows more to the bottom of the breast, where it is supposed to be.  Hence, a majority of the 'swelling' is more of a perception than a reality. 

Post operative Bleeding

One of the biggest risks of surgery is bleeding both during the procedure and in the early postoperative period. In order to safeguard patients from excessive bleeding, surgeons provide them with a list of medications to avoid prior to undergoing the surgery.  These medications include aspirin, Ibuprofen, Vitamin E and any other medication, which can increase bleeding with surgery and should be strictly avoided for two weeks prior to elective surgery if possible.  In addition, patients are advised to avoid smoking at least three to four weeks before the surgery date to reduce the risk of healing problems as well as pneumonia after anesthesia. 

Tissue Atrophy

Certain tissues in the body respond poorly to pressure and fat is one of them.  As the breast tissue contains a fair amount of fat, older patients more than younger ones, the implants can cause fat cells in the breasts to shrink.  The effect is similar to the way a sponge shrinks when it dries out.  This results in loss of volume of the breasts in the weeks to months after breast augmentation surgery and is why patients experience experience some loss of fullness in the upper pole of the breasts over time.  The amount of tissue atrophy is very difficult to predict in any patient and is generally more prominent in older women who have more fat tissue in their breasts compared to younger patients.  

Icing After Surgery

physicians commonly recommend the use of ice after surgery or an injury.  The idea behind this is that cooler temperatures generally cause blood vessels to constrict; therefore, less blood passes through them.  By constricting small vessels that have been transected during surgery, there will be less bleeding which equates to less bruising and less swelling.  Icing is generally done on the upper aspect of the breasts and many patients find that they have less pain when they use it.  It is important to have some sort of cloth between the ice and skin to avoid frostbite and to take it off for 15 minutes every once in a while.  Icing is usually only beneficial for the first 24-48 hours after surgery. 

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