What Side Effects May Occur after Breast Reconstruction?

By Ravi Tandon, M.D. on January 22, 2019

A woman with a bandage wrapped around her breastsBreast reconstruction can help women restore the appearance of their breasts and their confidence after undergoing a mastectomy for breast cancer.

When considering breast reconstruction surgery, it is important to be aware of the possible side effects that may occur after surgery. During personal consultations, Dr. Ravi Tandon thoroughly explains the side effects patients may expect after breast reconstruction.

If you live in or around New Orleans, LA and would like more information about breast reconstruction, we welcome you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Tandon.

The Side Effects of Breast Reconstruction

As with any surgery, there are some side effects that patients may experience after breast reconstruction. Some side effects are common, such as pain, swelling, and bruising, while risks, like infection, are less common and may not occur in all patients. The following are some side effects patients should be aware of before undergoing breast reconstruction surgery.

Pain and Discomfort

Pain and discomfort following breast reconstruction surgery is one of the most common side effects and should be expected.

Pain is often most significant in the first few days after surgery, but typically subsides as the tissues heal and can be managed throughout recovery with pain medication and ice packs or cold compresses.

Swelling

Swelling is another common side effect after breast reconstruction surgery. Swelling is a normal reaction following surgery and a necessary part of the healing process.

Swelling should lessen as the body heals but may take several weeks or months to fully resolve. Applying ice packs to the chest during the first few days of recovery can help reduce inflammation and decrease the appearance of swelling.

Bruising

Bruising may occur after breast reconstruction surgery as a result of the tissues being manipulated.

Bruising generally fades after a few weeks but some bruising may take up to eight weeks to fully resolve.

Numbness or Tingling

The skin around the breasts may feel numb or a tingling sensation may be present after breast reconstruction surgery.

Cutting the tissues during breast reconstruction can injure or damage nerves, which in turn may leave the skin feeling numb or tingly. In most cases, numbness or a tingling sensation is temporary but some may find numbness or tingling is permanent.

Scarring

Any area in which an incision was made during breast reconstruction is susceptible to scarring. The size, location, and degree of scarring largely depends on the type of reconstruction performed as well as the patient's own propensity for scarring.

Breast Reconstruction Risks

There are also some risks of breast reconstruction. These are far less common.

Infection

Although rare, infection is a possible risk that patients must be aware of and take care to avoid.

Taking care of wounds as instructed, keeping incisions clean, and changing bandages when necessary can help reduce the risk of infection.

Fluid Buildup Under the Wound

In the first few days of recovery, it is common for fluid to collect under the wound. Surgical drains are often placed at the incision site to help remove fluid and reduce swelling. Without drains, fluid buildup can create painful pressure within the tissue and slow healing.

Drains will be removed once fluid buildup slows or stops. This may take a couple of weeks, but will vary for each patient.

Learn More about Breast Reconstruction Surgery

If you have had a mastectomy, breast reconstruction surgery may be right for you. If you would like to learn more about breast reconstruction surgery, please call our friendly staff at (504) 455-1000 to schedule your personal consultation with Dr. Tandon.

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