One of the things that causes the most amount of stress when planning surgery is not knowing how you are going to feel and how long you will need help. Here is a quick list of questions I am commonly asked about the post-op surgery recovery period.
Do I need someone with me?
Yes!!! If you have any surgical procedure, you will need a ride home and have someone to stay with you at all times for at least 2-3 days. This is very important because you will not be able to drive and may need assistance with household tasks. If you have small children or needy pets, you may need care for longer. This is the time to call in favors from your friends and family. If you cannot find someone to help you, we can provide you with the information for post-op surgery recovery nurses or aftercare centers which are a great option as well.
How bad will my pain be?
Every patient recovering from surgery will have some pain, this should be the expectation. A pain free surgery recovery is impossible. The pain is usually very manageable and will improve rapidly over the first week. A very large majority of my patients are able to manage well without narcotics, which will help you feel normal faster.
When will I be able to be up and around and exercise?
Most patients are up and around immediately with full ROM of their arms and legs. It is important in the first two weeks to not do any exercise which will raise your heart rate, or lift anything over 5 pounds. Your return to exercise will depend on what type of surgery you had. Most patients are cleared to return to exercise between 4-6 weeks after surgery.
When can I shower?
Most patients can shower the day after surgery. Patients with drains or wound healing devices may not be able to shower and sponge baths will be recommended. You will have this information prior to surgery. It is very important to keep your incisions clean as instructed. Some patients are uncomfortable touching their bodies during the healing process. This can lead to infections and poor scar outcomes, make sure you follow wound care instructions given by the surgical team.
What supplies do I need?
The most important things to purchase are a variety of healthy snacks and any positioning devices (specialty pillows). Make sure you have clothing that is easy to get on and off and does not take too much effort. There are a variety of supplements on the market that claim to help with healing or swelling. Do not purchase or take any of these without clearing it with your surgical team. Your team will likely have recommendations.
It is very important to pick up any prescription medications prior to your surgery. It is common for pharmacies to be out of medications or need insurance authorizations. Make sure you give enough time to get those important medications in your hands prior to the day of surgery. Do not worry about bras or garments, these will be placed on you in the operating room. There is no need to purchase extras right away. Many patients shrink as the swelling goes down, it’s best to wait at least a week after surgery before purchasing more garments.
When can I drive?
Most patients can drive between 7-10 days after surgery. You will need to be off of narcotics and all medications which cause drowsiness and slowed reaction times. You will also need to feel well enough to react quickly to the ever changing traffic conditions.
Drains are gross, do I really have to take care of them by myself?
Yes, you do. They are not that bad and you will be just fine! Keep a detailed log of how much fluid comes out and hopefully they will be out soon.
When can I have the sex?
There is no easy answer to this question, use your judgement and don’t break any of the physical activity rules.
When can I go back to my vitamins and supplements?
Most supplements and non-surgery associated medications can be restarted the day after surgery.
When will my swelling go away?
The normal progression is for swelling to increase for about 72 hours following surgery which will turn you into an amorphous blob. Over the next month about 60-70% of the swelling will subside. The last bit will take a few more months to go away. Some people are very responsive to salt in the diet, so watch your salt intake carefully during the first few weeks following surgery.
When will I see my final results?
Not for many months. Plastic surgery results can take up to a year (or even more!) to reach their final form. Do not drive yourself crazy staring at yourself in the mirror every day. The changes are slow and small, this can be very discouraging if you are staring at the area daily.
If you find yourself becoming obsessive, set some limits. Designate a day of the week as your inspection day where you check the area out more carefully. This will help you see the progress and will feel more encouraging! Do not add to the stress of recovery by needless worry about your results, if your surgeon is not concerned this should be what gives you comfort. We have the luxury of seeing many patients in your very situation and know how it plays out.
Overall the first month after surgery is almost always less stressful than expected, I hope it is for you as well!
*Remember that your chosen surgeon is your best resource! If he/she says something different than I did above, go with their recommendations!
After receiving her medical degree from Loma Linda University School of Medicine in Loma Linda, California, Dr. Killeen completed her residency in plastic surgery at the Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland, OR, where she served as Chief Resident.
While completing her residency in general surgery at the world famous Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, she was recognized for her outstanding academic achievement in surgery, leadership, and clinical performance.
Dr. Killeen specializes in complex breast revisions, breast reconstruction, and breast & body aesthetic surgery. She has a special passion for non-invasive skin rejuvenation and medical skin care.
She resides in Beverly Hills, CA with her husband, two kids, two dogs, and two show cats.