Plastic Surgery Recovery

These instructions for recovery after cosmetic plastic surgery are general guidelines. They should not take the place of any instructions from your surgeon or other physician.

Prepare ahead for your recovery. If you can, fill any prescriptions for pain relievers or antibiotics in advance. If you need to buy a support or compression garment, buy that in advance as well. Have any supplies you need — such as bandages, cold compresses, or ointments — on hand. You might also want to stock up on groceries or household needs before your surgery.

You may be told to avoid bending over or lifting objects weighing more than 10 to 15 pounds for several days to a week after your surgery. If you have small children, this could mean you may need some help around the house. Try to arrange for some friends to stop by and check on you on a regular basis.

Most types of cosmetic plastic surgery to the head, face, and breasts call for you to sleep with your head elevated for several days or weeks after your surgery. This means sleeping on at least two and probably three pillows. You might want to buy a wedge-shaped foam pillow instead. An additional pillow under your knees can help you sleep more comfortably with your head elevated.

Have the phone numbers for your surgeon, your pharmacy, and your regular physician handy in case you need them.

After your surgery:

  • Take your temperature regularly. If you develop a fever, it may be an indication of an infection. Call your surgeon if your temperature is above 100.5 degrees F.
  • Take pain medication as prescribed. Do not wait for pain to be severe before you take a pain reliever. While a certain degree of pain is to be expected, contact your doctor if there is excessive pain that is not relieved by analgesics.
  • Take all prescribed antibiotics according to schedule. Unless instructed otherwise, finish the prescription. Do not stop taking the antibiotic because you feel better.
  • Avoid taking aspirin or using alcohol until your doctor tells you it is allowed.
  • Change dressings or bandages according to the schedule given to you by your doctor. If you are told to wear a compression garment or elastic bandages, do so.
  • Use cold compresses according to your doctor's instructions. This will help keep swelling and bruising to a minimum.
  • Avoid smoking while you are recovering. Smoking interferes with healing.
  • You will have some swelling and/or bruising that may develop one to three days after your cosmetic plastic surgery. Inform your doctor if these symptoms do not begin to diminish after a few days.
  • You may have numbness in the skin in the days and weeks after the surgery. This is normal and should subside within a few weeks.
  • Avoid bending over or lifting heavy objects until your surgeon tells you that you can.
  • Avoid contact sports for 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Avoid direct sun exposure on your incisions.
  • Keep all scheduled postoperative appointments with your surgeon.


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