Swelling after Plastic Surgery: What to Expect By tmccall on April 14, 2017

A woman's sculpted buttocksIf you have stubborn fatty areas that won't go away with diet and exercise, you may be considering body contouring. Body contouring treatments effectively eliminate stubborn pockets of fat to sculpt and streamline areas of the body such as the inner thighs, abdomen, and upper arms. Before undergoing plastic surgery, including body contouring procedures, it's important to understand the potential side effects. Patients often have questions about swelling, so today we'll focus on swelling after plastic surgery in this overview from Milwaukee, WI plastic surgeon Tracy McCall.

Why Does Swelling Occur after Plastic Surgery?

During plastic surgery, the tissues are incised and often pulled or manipulated, causing injury to the body. Swelling is normal and generally expected after plastic surgery. This is because swelling is the body's natural response to injury and important to the healing process. Swelling occurs as white blood cells and fluids collect within the tissues around an incision or injured area. White bloods cells help protect the body from infection and aid in healing. As incisions or other injuries heal, swelling will begin to reduce. If swelling gets worse instead of better, it can be a sign of infection or other complication and should be brought to your doctor's attention immediately.

How Long Should Swelling Be Expected after Plastic Surgery?

Each patient's experience with swelling after plastic surgery will vary based on personal response to surgery, the type of surgery performed, the area treated, and how well post-operative instructions are followed. In most cases, swelling is most noticeable for the first few days after surgery and will begin to subside after a week or two. Depending on the type of surgery, swelling may persist for several months though it will be significantly lower than it was during the initial recovery phase.

Tips to Help Reduce Swelling

Although swelling is to be expected after plastic surgery, following your surgeon's pre- and post-operative instructions can help facilitate healing and reduce swelling. Some other ways to help reduce swelling after plastic surgery include:

  • Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated by drinking eight to 12 glasses of water a day after surgery can help the body flush out the system and reduce swelling.
  • Avoid sodium: Sodium can make swelling worse by causing the body to retain fluids. Avoiding foods high in sodium in the days leading up to surgery and throughout recovery can help reduce swelling.
  • Apply an ice pack: Applying ice packs to swollen areas during the first 48 to 72 hours can help reduce swelling as the cold temperature encourages the blood vessels to contract. Apply ice for 15-minute increments for best results.
  • Wear a compression garment: Compression garments are often recommended after certain plastic surgery procedures, like breast reduction, liposuction, or tummy tuck surgery as they help move fluids and hold the tissues in place during recovery.
  • Elevate the injured area: Elevating portions of the body that were operated on can help reduce swelling by encouraging fluids to drain from the tissues.

Discover Which Treatments Are Right for You

To learn more about swelling after plastic surgery, or to find out which treatments are right for your needs, you are invited to schedule a consultation with Dr. McCall.

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Dr. Tracy McCall

Lake Country Plastic and Hand Surgery

Dr. Tracy McCall is a board-certified plastic surgeon that has been providing exceptional results to patients since 2001. She is an active member of several professional organizations, including:

  • American College of Surgeons
  • American Medical Association
  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons
  • Association of Women Surgeons

Fill out our online form to request a consultation or call us in Waukesha, WI, at (262) 523-1200.

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