There are a variety of questions patients have about their recovery process after breast implants. I spend time in each consultation educating each patient about what to expect during their recovery from surgery. The most important things I mention are what they will look like during the first month and then the next several months. I also spend time discussing how the healing process evolves with time.
Most breast implants are placed under the muscle. The pectoralis muscle isn’t accustomed to being stretched over the top of an implant and remains tight initially. This tightness of the muscle creates some discomfort and also creates a sense of pressure in the chest as well as a high positioning of the implants. I warn each patient to expect the implants to be high and tight initially. This is a normal expectation. They won’t become soft and settle for eight weeks and sometimes up to four months. As the muscle and skin relax and stretch over the top of the implant, the implants settle and become softer with more fullness and roundness to the breast, especially in the lower pole. When the implant starts to settle, the upper portion of the breast takes on a more natural slope, and the teardrop shape we expect takes shape. However, this is a process that occurs slowly over eight weeks or more and should be expected during the recovery.
The other occurrence I warn each patient to expect is the symmetry, or asymmetry, of the healing process. Even though I perform the exact same procedure on each side, I encourage patients to think of each breast as a separate surgery. There is quite often one side that has more discomfort or more swelling. This is quite normal and does not reflect a problem. There is also a tendency for one side to relax, soften, and settle faster than the other side. This, too, is not a cause for concern but simply a difference in the rate of healing. Most commonly I would associate this with the patient being right or left-handed and, therefore, using one hand and arm more during the recovery process. With patience and time, the “slower” side catches up to the breast that settles sooner, and by the time we reach 8 to 12 weeks, the breasts are symmetrical and even. If this occurs, I will sometimes have the patient massage one side preferentially to help the process.
As you consider getting breast implants, remember that the final outcome doesn’t occur until up to eight weeks or even four months after surgery.
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