Breast Reconstruction: After Your Surgery

These discharge instructions will give you basic information on caring for yourself after you leave the hospital. Your surgeon may also give you specific instructions.

Please read these instructions and refer to them in the next few weeks. If you have any questions or problems, call your doctor.


Rest as much as possible during your first two weeks at home. Avoid standing for long periods of time. Don’t lift anything heavy (more than three pounds) with the affected arm(s). Don’t do any overhead reaching, pulling, or stretching with your arms except what is illustrated on your physical therapy instructions.  This means you cannot vacuum or mop because of the stretching involved. Your doctor will tell you when you can drive.


You may tub bathe or sponge bathe. Do not shower unless your doctor says you may. You may wash your hair.  

Pain control

Take pain relievers as prescribed. You may need a stool softener because some pain medications can cause constipation. If none were prescribed or if your discomfort is mild, you may take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin). Do not take any product containing aspirin. 

Care of your incision

Follow specific instructions given by your doctor. Wear a surgi-bra (if you were given one). Some patients go home with one or more Jackson-Pratt (JP) drains in their incisions. If you have a JP drain, refer to the booklet and instructions given to you by your nurse on how to care for it. Record drainage output on a sheet daily.  If the drains were removed, keep the dressing that covers the site dry and intact.

Other instructions

  • Keep your arms and elbows at your sides. Keep your arm movements within the limits set by your doctor and/or physical or occupational therapist.
  • Do not sleep on your stomach or press anything against your chest for two to four weeks. This means you will not be able to hold a small child during this time.

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Shaking chills or a fever higher than 100.4 F (38 C)
  • Increased muscle or chest soreness accompanied by fever or numbness or tingling in either arm
  • Drainage that becomes heavy or is accompanied by redness or swelling at the incision or drain site(s).  (Note: Slight drainage is normal, especially within 24 hours of surgery.)
  • One breast becomes larger than the other (especially if implants were inserted)

Revised August 2012

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