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After Breast Reconstruction with Implants or Expanders

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. Gently pat the area dry 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.

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 care for your drain.

Wear a supportive bra as directed:

You may be given a surgical bra or told to wear a sports bra. A supportive bra may help hold your bandages in place. It may also help with swelling and pain. Do not wear bras with lace or underwire. They may rub against your incision and cause discomfort.


Do not lift anything heavier than 2 pounds. Do not push or pull with your arms. Do not play sports or do vigorous activities. 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.

Arm stretches:

Your healthcare provider may show you how to do arm stretches. Arm stretches may prevent stiff arms or shoulders. You may need to wait until after your drains are removed to begin stretching. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about arm stretches.

Return to work:

Your return to work may depend on the type of job you have. Ask your healthcare provider when it is okay for you to return to work.

Filling expanders after surgery:

If you have tissue expanders, you will need to return several times to have them filled. This will happen over 2 to 3 months. Your healthcare provider will use local anesthesia to numb the injection area. With local anesthesia, you may feel pressure or pushing, but you should not feel any pain. Next, he or she will insert a needle into your skin. When he or she reaches the expander sac he or she will inject saline (salt water). This procedure will gradually stretch your skin and increase the size of your breast.

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 MRI:

If you have silicone implants you will need to return for an MRI. MRI pictures will make sure that the implant is not broken or leaking fluid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell a healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body. Ask your healthcare provider when you need to have an MRI.

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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