This guide provides an overview of the time off from work and other normal routines you will need to take for your top surgery recovery. We cover organizing time off with your employer, what to expect during the first stage of recovery, and recovery milestones. Different types of top surgery may allow for varying degrees of physical activity and may come with their own potential risks and complications, which are discussed in this content. It is important to understand and take them into consideration when creating your post-op top surgery plan.
Chest reconstruction top surgery is an important and, possibly life-changing, procedure that requires careful planning and consideration in advance. Because chest reconstruction top surgery is a major procedure, you will need to take time off from work and other normal routines to rest and recuperate. Most patients feel up to resuming sedentary work and very light physical activity within 7 to 9 days. More specific milestones can be found below for other types of physical activity, which would determine when patients can resume work for non-sedentary professions.
Generally speaking, your employer is required to grant you an adequate amount of time off for both surgery and recovery. Your surgeon will provide you with a doctor’s note regarding your activity restrictions. The note will not include any information regarding the nature of your procedure. You are not required to tell your employer what type of procedure you have undergone.
Most patients do not have much trouble with chest reconstruction top surgery recovery. When you wake up from surgery, it is normal to experience some discomfort, swelling, and bruising. Your chest will be wrapped in gauze dressings and a compression binder for support.
You will likely need to take pain medication during your recovery, which your surgeon will give you to help manage your discomfort. You will also receive a dose of antibiotics during surgery, which will help decrease your risk of post-surgical infection.
You will be required to wear a special compression binder for a few weeks to minimize swelling and to help the skin tighten. Your surgeon will usually also place temporary surgical drains in your incisions, or the side of your chest to collect excess fluid build-up.
Most patients are able to return home, or to a recovery center, the same day as their surgery. You will need the help of a friend, family member, or another caretaker such as a nurse during the first few days of your recovery. A home care nurse may also be necessary for the first three days to monitor your progress, check your dressings, and empty the surgical drain if you happen to have them in place (most of our patients will have drains).
Your mobility may be limited for the first several days, but it is recommended that you start walking as soon as possible. Normal showering will be restricted until the dressings over your incisions and drains (if you have them) are removed. This usually happens within 3 to 7 days, at your first post-op appointment.
Though complications are uncommon, all surgeries carry a degree of risk and uncertainty. It is possible that you will experience a complication during recovery which will necessitate more time off from work and other daily routines. Complications associated with chest reconstruction top surgery include adverse reaction to anesthesia, blood clots, infection, excess fluid build-up in your chest, pain, bleeding, and undesirable cosmetic outcomes.
You will be given instructions for multiple ways to reach your surgeon directly after surgery. It is normal for your chest to be red and sore after surgery. However, if the redness extends 1-2 cm beyond the incision line, or if your skin is very warm or tender, or if you have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or more (measured with a thermometer), you should contact your surgeon. Infections are extremely rare, but these can be early indicators.
If at any time during your recovery, you feel a sudden shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, or tender, swollen legs, you should get emergency help. Dial 911 right away. These may be signs of a medical emergency.
To reiterate, please do not lift more than 5 pounds immediately after surgery. At 3 weeks (21 days) after surgery you can lift up to 20 lbs and can do cardio exercises. At 6 weeks (42 days) there is no weight limit on how much you can lift. But, if your procedure includes a horizontal incision across each side of the chest (double incision, buttonhole, inverted T, fish mouth), then you should avoid elbow-over-shoulder arm positions for up to 3 months after surgery. This can put a vertical strain on the scars and make them thicker or wider. Please read our page regarding the 3 month elbow mobility milestone for updated information. You can do the vast majority of things in your life without putting your arms above your shoulders, except putting things on high shelves or doing certain sports / physical fitness activities.
Do you still have questions? Schedule an in-person or virtual consultation for chest reconstruction top surgery with one of our board certified plastic surgeons. During your consultation, you will have the opportunity to discuss the procedure in-depth and view our gallery of top surgery before and after photos. Contact our offices today.