Recovery is a process. It takes time and requires patience. Cosmetic surgery is elective, in other words it is done because you choose to have it done. Prior to surgery you are not sick or unwell, but after surgery you will feel this way. To some extent, when performing cosmetic surgery, we are taking healthy patients and making them ill, for a while, during their recovery.
Recovery is draining, metabolically, physically and emotionally. Expect to feel tired as your body uses energy to heal. Expect to feel uncomfortable, tender, sore, swollen and bruised. Expect recovery to be difficult emotionally. Expect it to be limiting – you will not be able to do all your usual activities for a while. But it is also limited. It is a process and it will get better. Although one day may be worse than another you should make reasonably steady progress in resuming your normal health and vitality. Take it easy, rest, give yourself time.
After surgery, any wounds will be covered with appropriate dressings. You may be given support garments to wear. You will usually recover in my ward under the care of my nurses and once we are satisfied, we will discharge you. Painkillers will be given or prescribed to treat post-operative pain.
During the first night it is likely that things will feel a little sore and that some blood will collect under or on the dressing. Excessive swelling and pain, however, should be reported. Danni, one of my nursing sisters, will usually call you to check in with you and to discuss any issues or problems you may have.
The first post-operative visit is to make sure that you are alright and recovering well. Usually the wounds are not examined at this visit, but rather at a later visit a few days later. I prefer to keep the wounds covered and dressed to allow them to heal as best as possible.
Bruising and swelling tend to peak at about days 3 to 5 after surgery and usually subsides about 2 weeks after surgery. The degree of bruising and swelling varies from patient to patient: some more, some less. Pain thresholds also vary and I will advise you, if necessary, how to adjust your post-operative pain medication. You will be advised about exercise and possibly manual lymphatic drainage which many patients find very helpful.
Healing is an emotional process. Often patients enter a phase of mild dissatisfaction as healing often takes longer than anticipated. Allow down time for your recovery.
Scars take a year or two to mature. It is usual for scars to look reasonable early on, but then from about 3 weeks to 6 months they are in a maturation phase during which they can be red and rasised. You will be advised about scar management. My usual scar management program is to use Micropore tape (3M) which is applied directly on to the scar to provide support. The micropore is left on as long as possible, usually a week or two, until you replace it. I advise that you tape the scars for a year after surgery. Tissue oil can be used in conjunction with the micropore or, where scars are difficult to tape, eg facelift scars, just tissue oil can be used.
The final result from your surgery can take months to be apparent. Over time there is a further subsidence of slight swelling, if liposuction has been done then the little tunnels created by the cannula shrink down and suck in giving an enhancement of the result over time. Tissue softens, scars mature and generally the result improves over time.