Breast Reconstruction Revision Surgery Recovery: How Long Until I Can…

A surgeon advises his patient, who has received breast reconstruction revision surgery, about her recovery timeline.
Many women who have had breast cancer-related surgeries such as mastectomies or lumpectomies may choose to undergo breast reconstruction surgery to rebuild the look and shape of their breasts. However, some patients may be unhappy with the results of their breast reconstruction or may develop complications years later. Breast reconstruction revision surgery is an option for resolving any deformities, asymmetry, or discomfort remaining from the original breast reconstruction. Many candidates for breast reconstruction revision have been through multiple surgeries, however, and it’s common to wonder about the timeline for breast reconstruction revision surgery recovery. Learn more about what to expect after breast reconstruction revision below.

Why Is Breast Reconstruction Revision Surgery Necessary?

Breast reconstruction revision surgery is performed when the outcome of the initial breast reconstruction surgery produces concerns or if the patient desires further improvements. Specifically, the most common reasons for breast reconstruction revision surgeries are:
  • Reconstruction asymmetry: If there is still a noticeable difference in size, shape, or position between the reconstructed breast and the non reconstructed breast or asymmetry resulting from the surgery, revision can bring the breasts back to a more symmetrical appearance.
  • Implant-related issues: Sometimes, there are problems with implants, such as scar tissue tightening around the implant or, in rare cases, ruptures. Revision surgery can address these issues.
  • Dynamic animation deformity: Often, implants used for breast reconstruction are placed partially beneath the chest wall or pectoralis muscles.  This can result in a noticeable puckering of the skin of the upper and inner breast related to the muscle pull, or to feelings of tightness in the chest as the muscle contracts around the implant.  A pre-pectoral conversion, where the implant is moved in front of the muscle can provide immediate and long lasting relief from this problem.
  • Scar revision: Scars from breast reconstruction can lead to skin puckering and deformities that cause breast asymmetry and nipple displacement. Revision surgeries can be performed to improve the appearance of scars resulting from the initial surgery.
  • Complication correction: While uncommon, complications can occur with any surgery, and breast reconstruction surgery is no different. However, revision surgeries can address complications such as issues with wound healing and, in extremely rare cases, infection.

How Long Does Breast Reconstruction Revision Surgery Recovery Take?

During your breast reconstruction revision surgery recovery, you will have to limit some of your mobility and activity because you need to give your body adequate time and rest to heal. For a smooth recovery, it’s important to follow the recommendations of your surgeon as well as the guidelines listed below.
Breast Reconstruction Revision Surgery Recovery: What to Expect
Stage Guideline
Immediately after surgery
  • Will likely experience pain and soreness in the region
  • Rest and limit any physical activity
First week
  • Will likely still experience discomfort and limited mobility
  • Avoid heavy lifting, strenuous activities, and exercise
2-4 weeks
  • Soreness should begin subsiding.
  • Can resume engagement in light activities such as walking, light household chores, and returning to work (as long as it doesn’t involve heavy lifting or strenuous exercise)
  • Continue avoiding activities that place stress on the chest and shoulders.
  • Begin gradually incorporating gentle stretching and exercises as recommended by your surgeon.
4-6 weeks
  • Begin active exercises towards returning to normal activities
6 weeks and beyond
  • At this stage, your surgeon will likely approve a return to full intensity of activities and exercises such as:
    • Walking
    • Swimming
    • Stationary cycling
  • As per your surgeon’s recommendations, return to  high-impact exercises, heavy lifting, and activities.

Exercises You Can Perform During Breast Reconstruction Revision Surgery Recovery

In the beginning stages of your recovery, engaging in gentle and limited activities such as walking is essential, as light cardio can be very beneficial to your recovery. Some other light exercises that you can engage in during this window are:
  • Deep breathing exercises: Sit upright in a chair and begin taking slow, deep breaths through the nose while letting your chest expand before breathing slowly through the mouth. This relieves stress and prevents tension from building up.
  • Arm circles: Slowly raise your arm on the affected side until it is parallel to the ground. Gently make a circle either forward or backward while keeping your elbow straight. Repeat in the opposite direction. This can help restore the full range of motion to the shoulder on the affected side.
  • Arm over shoulder stretches: On your affected side, slowly raise your arm over your head and to your side before moving it behind your neck and to the middle of your back. These gentle exercises can help restore the range of motion to the affected side.
These are just a few examples of exercises that can assist with your breast reconstruction revision surgery recovery. You can expect your surgeon or physical therapist to recommend others based on the context of your surgery. While you can expect some soreness and limited activities for a few weeks, you should be able to return to most normal activities by 4-8 weeks  post-operation. However, it’s important to listen to your body. Take note of any pain or discomfort you experience during the recovery period, and contact your surgeon if you experience anything that seems out of the ordinary. Breast reconstruction revision surgeries are complex, so it’s important to work with a highly experienced plastic surgeon who focuses on your total well-being. At Harris Plastic Surgery, we specialize in breast reconstruction revisions and provide expert guidance you can trust to ensure a smooth recovery process.
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Would you like to learn more about breast reconstruction revision surgery recovery? Contact Harris Plastic Surgery for a consultation.

Stephen U. Harris, MD FACS

Dr. Stephen U. Harris is a board-certified cosmetic surgeon and recognized expert in breast reduction and reconstruction surgeries, having performed thousands in his career. When it comes to patient care, his philosophy is that every surgery should improve his patient’s overall quality of life, not just their appearance. Dr. Harris stays up-to-date on all the latest advancements in breast augmentation, reconstruction, and reduction and is a recognized innovator in the field. In fact, he was the first surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital to offer primary prepectoral implant breast reconstruction, as well as secondary prepectoral revision surgery.

Dr. Harris also serves as Chief of Plastic Surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, New York and is an active staff surgeon (and former Chief of Plastic Surgery) at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, New York.

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