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Postoperative concerns after breast augmentation surgery


Swelling, numbness, bruising, pain and shape changes are common after breast augmentation surgery, and while most subside over time, it’s important to know when to contact your specialist plastic surgeon. In this article we explain what to expect, and when to call your surgeon’s clinic, after a breast augmentation with implants.

Breast augmentation recovery: what to expect

Dr David Sharp plastic sugeon

Following breast augmentation surgery with Dr Sharp, our postoperative care team will be in touch at the following specific stages during your recovery – but we invite all patients to reach out to us, anytime they have concerns:


  • in the days following discharge from hospital 
  • one week after surgery 
  • three weeks after surgery
  • six weeks after surgery 
  • twelve weeks after surgery 

What are normal sensations to have after breast augmentation surgery?

Everyone experiences their surgical recovery differently, but for most patients, the days and weeks following breast augmentation involve:

  • discomfort and swelling that peaks between 5-7 days after surgery and gradually subsides from there.
  • bruising, swelling, distortion and unusual sensations for the first few months after surgery
  • six weeks of light duties; no physical exertion or lifting over 2kg; this means no shopping, lifting children, carrying heavy handbags or even walking the dog! This first stage of recovery is followed by;
  • another six weeks of gradually easing back into activity – for example, this means slowly reintroducing weight bearing activities at the gym, instead of going straight back to your pre-surgery workout routine.
  • deeper internal swelling will take up to 6 months to subside
  • implants settle into position between 3-6 months after surgery, but deeper swelling and internal scarring can mask final results even at this stage
  • your scar may look raised, red and darker during the first few months after surgery; silicone tape or daily silicone gel massage will gradually improve this.
  • scarring – both internal and external – take up to 24 months to fully mature
  • unusual sensations are common, patients often explain ‘swooshing’ or ‘waterbed’ sensations as well as ‘electric’ or ‘tingling’ feelings.


Why might I have pain after breast augmentation?

It is normal to feel sharp twinges of pain, tingling sensations or aches in your breasts after breast augmentation surgery. This is a combination of muscles, ligaments and nerves that have been disrupted by having an implant placed in your body.

Some patients who experience ongoing discomfort after augmentation surgery find it can be linked to specific physical activities or their menstrual cycle. But it is important to contact your surgeon’s practice if you have ongoing pain, as they will need to explore more serious causes such as a rupture, capsular contracture or even cancer.

Why might I have numbness after breast augmentation surgery?

When an implant is placed in your body, nerves are severed; unfortunately this cannot be avoided as a ‘pocket’ must be made for the implant to sit in.

In most cases, these nerves will regenerate and recover over the 24 months following surgery. But in some cases, patients may experience ongoing or permanent numbness. This will just depend on how your body heals. This is discussed and documented preoperatively, and is an important factor for each patient to consider prior to deciding to undertake a breast augmentation.

Your body might heal differently to your friends or family who have had a breast augmentation, and unfortunately there is not much that you or your surgeon can do to prevent this, other than following your prescribed post operative instructions strictly. It’s important to weigh up how you might feel, mentally and emotionally, if this occurs after your surgery.

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When should I get in touch with my clinic?

Bleeding: if you have uncontrolled bleeding from your incision site – this is bleeding that does not stop

Signs of infection: fever, chills, swelling, rash,  pain, malodorous liquid coming from the incision site or flu-like symptoms.

If you have a breast that becomes large, hard and painful.

If you experience breast swelling 12 weeks or more after surgery.

If you experience persistent pain in your breasts and your surgery was more than 12 weeks ago. In this case, persistent pain is discomfort that lasts more than a few minutes and occurs frequently even when you are not exerting your chest muscles.

If you experience intermittent pain in your breasts, we encourage patients to note the following things, which will help us triage your call when you contact our clinic for assistance:

  • how would you describe the pain – an ache, sharp pain etc?
  • where does it occur – both breasts or just one, around the nipple or closer to your armpit?
  • have you been taking pain relief to manage your pain, and if so, what have you taken and has it helped?
  • if you have a menstrual cycle, on what days of your cycle does the discomfort occur?
  • have you noticed any lumps or irregularities in your breasts?
  • have you spoken to your GP about the pain, and did they examine you for lumps or irregularities?
  • when was the last time  you had a mammogram or ultrasound of your breasts?

What can be done about long term breast pain following implant placement?

If you have long term breast pain following surgery and ultrasound investigations and your clinical history (eg specific body movements/exercise or unsupportive bras) do not provide an explanation for the cause of pain, your surgeon will discuss a few options with you:


  • wait and see; usually this is the first course of action, especially if discomfort levels are not high or impacting a patient’s mental wellbeing, daily life or requiring pain relief medication. In this case, the patient will be encouraged to keep a diary noting when they experience pain, their pain rating out of 10 (eg 3/10) and any pain relief or lifestyle adjustments that they make to improve the pain. They will stay in touch with their clinic to update them on their pain levels and progress.


  • removal of implants altogether; sometimes patients find that the only solution for their discomfort is to remove their implants permanently. This is a serious consideration, and can be understandably distressing and disappointing; this is why the possibility is raised preoperatively, in the consent information provided to all patients, as part of the decision making process that patients undertake when they decide to proceed with surgery. Sometimes, it is not possible to 

What factors can impact my recovery?

Stress and anxiety: high stress or anxiety levels can impact recovery and pain levels.

Compression/support garment: wearing your compression garment is key to a good recovery. Most people only need to wear it for 6 weeks, but as we all heal differently, sometimes more time is needed. Returning to wearing a supportive garment can assist with swelling or discomfort, especially when returning to physical exertion.

Exertion and activity: when you have a breast augmentation, your muscles and ligaments are disrupted. Physical exertion can place pressure on these areas and cause discomfort and swelling. With time and patience, most people can return to normal activity after breast augmentation surgery, but occasionally some people find ongoing issues when performing some exertions, such as weight-bearing chest exercises.

Smoking: smoking and vaping can impact recovery and healing

Pain perception: everyone has different tolerance levels when it comes to pain. Science is making interesting inroad in this space, exploring pain perception in relation to genetics, PTSD and even serotonin levels.

Nutrition: a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables and low in meat and processed foods, has been proven to aid surgery recovery.


If you have any concerns after surgery, it is important to reach out to your surgeon as your first course of action. Your surgical team cares about your recovery and results, and will want to hear from you if you have any concerns or questions, so please stay in touch!