What's the Average Recovery Time of Breast Reconstruction for a Mastectomy?

Doctor Answers 27

Breast Reconstruction

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This varies a lot depending on what procedures have been done before, and whether any complications have been present in the area.  Four to six weeks and out to 8 weeks is not uncommon to have activities altered due to surgery and recovery.

Danville Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Recovery Time for Breast Reconstruction

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The amount of time required for recovery for breast reconstruction is going to vary greatly depending on the type of breast reconstruction.  I tell all of my patients it is going to take 9 months to a year from the initial mastectomy until the final reconstruction is complete.   Patients can return to work within 2-3 weeks of each operation, but for some types of reconstruction there can be several stages.   Talk to your boar certified plastic surgeon to determine which type of reconstruction is best for you and the recovery associated with that type of reconstruction.

Recovery time after breast reconstruction for a mastectomy

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Recovery time after breast reconstruction after a mastectomy depends on the reconstruction technique.

1. For implant base breast reconstruction - stage 1 involves placement of a tissue expander and alloderm after mastectomy - Normally the patient stays in the hospital for 1 to 2 days for this stage1. All the surgical sites should heal and the drains removed by week 3. Patient should be able to return to work by week 3 to 4. Stage 2 involves removal of tissue expander and placement of permanent implant. This surgery is outpatient which means you could go home the same day.
2. For autologous tissue breast reconstruction i.e. free TRAM, DIEP, and SGAP flaps, the surgery usually takes about 8 to 10 hours depending on one or 2 sides. After the surgery, the patient stays in the hospital for 5 days. You should feel fully recovered by week 3-4. All subsequent touch up surgeries are outpatient.

Mytien Goldberg, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon

Recovery after reconstruction

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There are several factors to affect the overall recovery time for breast reconstruction.  

It can take from days to weeks, depending on the stage of the cancer, the shape and size of the breasts, the need to place implants or use autologous tissue, surgeon experience and patient factors going in to the surgery.  Overall if all is taken into consideration the quicker the recovery, the faster you will heal.  

Ali Sadeghi, MD, FACS
New Orleans Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Breast Reconstruction Recovery

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For implant based reconstruction, the mastectomy and expander/implant placement is generally performed in the hospital and includes an overnight stay.  Most patients do not return to work for ~ 1 month.  The second operation is generally 3-5 months later (unless radiation is involved in which case the wait is longer).  It usually involves removing the temporary expander and replacing it with an implant and possibly fat grafting to improve the contour of the reconstruction.  Patient return to work at 2 weeks post op.  For both surgeries, there is period of 4-6 weeks of no heavy lifting and no strenuous exercise.

Elizabeth Kim, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Breast Reconstruction Recovery Time

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The recovery time of breast reconstruction post mastectomy largely depends on the type of procedure performed. With implant based reconstruction, the average time ranges from two weeks to four weeks back to a desk job. With more advanced reconstruction, using your own tissue (autologous), more time is generally required for recovery, as there is a donor site that has to heal as well. The average time for autologous breast reconstruction recovery is four to six weeks back to a desk job, or light activity duties.

Average recovery time for breast reconstruction after mastectomy

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In general, wound healing undergoes a predictable pattern in the average patient. At 24-48 hours, the top layer of skin begins to heal, and scabs can start to form. At 10-21 days, the collagen is reforming itself, so that the wound can actually be weaker even if the patient is starting to feel better. At 6-8 weeks, most wounds reach maximal wound healing, which is about 80% of the previous wound strength. At this point, patients should be able to return to normal activities. This wound healing schedule will basically hold for all types of breast reconstruction after mastectomy, and for all types of surgery. That said, some patients may feel more or less normal after 2-4 weeks, while other patients may take months to return to their baseline feeling of strength.

Postoperative recovery

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Breast reconstruction recovery can depend on the type of reconstruction performed- generally, implant based breast reconstruction will have a recovery time of about 4 weeks.  When using your own tissue (either from the abdomen or the back) recovery time increases to approximtely 6 weeks-- keeping in mind other patient medical conditions, prior radiation treatment may cause healing time to increase... best of luck

Recovery time varies

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Recovery is a process that takes several weeks following mastectomies with immediate reconstruction.  This timeframe may be as short as 6 weeks for implant-based reconstruction and more commonly 8 weeks for autologous tissue reconstruction.

Recovery time after breast reconstruction surgery

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This is actually a difficult question to answer. It depends on what type of reconstruction you have and how "recovered" you mean by "recovery time". There are basically three ways of reconstructing a breast - using an implant, using your own tissue or using a combination of an implant and your own tissue. Each technique differs in terms of downtime and recovery.

For implant based reconstruction, it is normally a few days in hospital then home with a drain. If the implant based reconstruction is “two staged”, this means an expander was placed at an initial procedure which will then need to be swapped for a proper implant in a second procedure. You need to take it easy for a few weeks and you can't shower until the drains are removed. I recommend no swimming or exercise for 3 - 4 weeks although you should be driving after a week or so.

When surgeons use your own tissue without an implant to reconstruct a breast, they are usually using tissue from the lower abdomen. This is either a “TRAM” or a “DIEP” flap reconstruction. For a TRAM or DIEP flap breast reconstruction, it is a week in hospital then not lifting anything heavier than 2 grocery bags for 4 weeks. No exercise or swimming for at least 4 weeks. Driving after this type of surgery is different for different people, but around 2 -3 weeks for most.

If you are having a hybrid reconstruction using an implant with your latissimus dorsi muscle from the back, most patients are in hospital for 5 - 7 days, and again, no showering until the drains are removed. I recommend no exercise for a month but most patients are driving after a week or two.

I hope this helps

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.