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After Breast Reconstruction with Autologous Tissue

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

Seek care immediately if:

Call your doctor or surgeon if:


You may need any of the following:


Ask your healthcare provider when your incisions can get wet. You may need to take a sponge bath until your drains are removed. When you can shower, carefully wash around the incisions with soap and water. It is okay to allow the soap and water to gently run over your incision. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed.

Wound care:

Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. It may feel more comfortable to place gauze over your incisions before you put on a bra. Check your incision every day for redness, pus, or swelling. Do not put powders or lotions on your incisions.

Monitor your flaps:

Check the temperature and color of your breasts every day. You can do this by gently pressing on one breast at a time. You should see your skin turn pale where you push on it and then pink when you let go. Your breast should feel warm but not hot.

Drain care:

Empty your drains as directed. You may need to write down how much fluid you empty from your drains each day. Ask your healthcare provider how to pin your drains to your bra or pants to prevent pulling. Your drains may be removed in 1 to 3 weeks. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about how to empty your drains.

Wear a supportive bra as directed:

You may be given a surgical bra or be told to wear a sports bra. A surgical bra has a zipper in the front and adjustable straps. A surgical bra or sports bra may help decrease swelling and pain. Ask your healthcare provider when you can wear a regular bra. You may not be able to wear a regular bra for 4 weeks. When your healthcare provider says it is okay, do not wear bras with lace or underwires. They may rub against your incision and cause discomfort.

Do not put stress on your abdominal incision:

Wear an abdominal binder as directed. An abdominal binder will help decrease the stress on your incision. It may also help decrease pain when you are out of bed. Do not lie flat in bed. Keep 1 pillow under your thighs and 1 under your head. This will keep your hips flexed and take stress off of your abdominal incision. Bend slightly forward from your hips when you get out of bed and walk. Ask your healthcare provider how long you need to do this.


Do not lift anything heavier than 2 pounds. Do not lift anything over your head. Do not push, or pull with your arms. Do not play sports or do vigorous activities. Do not have sex until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Start with short walks around the house. This may prevent blood clots and help with healing. Gradually walk further each day. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to your normal activities. You may need to follow other instructions depending on where your donor site is.


Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Healthy foods will help your body heal from surgery. Ask if you need to be on a special diet. Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Liquids will help prevent dehydration and blood clots. Do not drink caffeine for 4 weeks or as directed. Caffeine can shrink blood vessels and decrease the blood flow to the flaps.

Returning to work:

Your return to work may depend on the type of job you have. If your job does not require physical activity, you may be able to return in 4 to 6 weeks. If your job requires heavy lifting or physical activity, you may be able return in 8 to 12 weeks. Ask your healthcare provider when it is okay for you to return to work.

Home healthcare:

Ask your healthcare provider if you need home health services. This might include a nurse who visits you in your home to check your incisions and drains.

Physical therapy:

You may need physical therapy. It may be difficult or painful to use muscles at the donor site. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. He or she may tell you do to arm exercises to prevent arm stiffness or weakness.

Nipple and areola reconstruction:

You can choose to have nipple and areola reconstruction. This may be done after your breast heals from the first stage of reconstruction. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options.

Follow up with your doctor or surgeon as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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