The below question is answered by Charleston breast surgeon, Dr. Richard M. Kline, Jr. of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction:
What is the recovery process like for DIEP flap breast reconstruction?
Generally speaking, patients can sit in a chair the day after surgery, they are walking by 2 days after surgery, and they leave the hospital on the fourth day after surgery. We ask you to sleep on your back for a minimum of a month, sometimes longer (depending on the size of the flaps), and to avoid vigorous physical activity for at least 6-8 weeks. Most people seem to feel like they are well on their way to recovery within 2 months, although obviously healing goes on for a significantly longer. However, everyone is different, and some patients recover more rapidly, other seems to take a little more time. We feel that the optimal approach is to let you speak to other patients who have been through the process, so that they may share their experiences directly with you.
Below are some additional tips for optimal post surgical experience.
Family and Friends: Support from loved ones is very helpful. But understand that comments they may make during your recovery can cause you concern. Remember this: We will tell you honestly how you are doing and what we expect your result will be. Please trust in our knowledge and experience when we discuss your progress with you.
Healing: You will heal! How quickly depends on factors your genetic background, your overall health and your lifestyle (exercise, smoking, drinking, etc.). Many people believe the surgeon “heals” the patient. No person can make another heal. Dr Craigie and Dr Kline can facilitate, but not accelerate, the healing process. But you play the starring role, so your cooperation is key.
Swelling: You may find swelling of your new breast and abdomen (DIEP) or buttock (GAP) to be troublesome and your clothes may not fit. Be patient, this swelling will gradually subside and you will feel better in a few weeks. There will be a certain amount of tightness in the area where the flap was taken from. This will slowly relax in a few months.
Following Instructions: Another way to improve healing is by following the instructions given by Dr. Craigie and Dr. Kline’s staff. We believe “the difference is in the details” and strive to achieve the best possible results for you. It is imperative that you act as a partner in this process — not a passive participant. The instructions are designed to give you the best opportunity for healing without delay or surprise.
Click here for a complete list of post surgery healing and recovery tips and instructions.
Have questions for surgical team at The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction? Send them on over, we’d love to hear from you!