By far the most common questions I field in my Aesthetic Surgery practice following a surgery concern swelling. This is true for facial surgery, breast surgery and body contouring. “Is this normal ?” and “When will it go away ?” are usually the main ones. Well, it is completely normal for your tissues to swell after surgery and it will go away at different speeds depending what was done and the body part. Here’s why…
When you have surgery, your tissues are ‘injured’, albeit in a very controlled, sterile environment. But all the same, the tissue does undergo an injury. Our body responds to that with an “inflammatory response”. Now the term ‘inflammation’ has gotten a bad rap of late but in reality the inflammatory response is the normal pathway by which the body heals. Part of this response is that the blood vessels in the area of the surgery will get more ‘leaky’. Blood vessels are not solid tubes, they are porous to let the cells that promote healing access the area. With this movement of cells come shifts of fluid from inside the blood vessels to to injured tissue, thus the swelling. As the healing process progresses the swelling will subside.
In general, swelling in the face resolves more quickly while the breasts and body take longer. The thighs and legs will stay swollen the longest because of gravity. So, in the face it is not unusual or unexpected to have swelling for several weeks. The breasts and torso will show swelling for 3 to 6 months typically.
There are methods to minimize the swelling that your surgeon will include as part of your aftercare so check with him/her as you prepare for your procedure. But in the end, Yes it is normal to swell and it always goes away.
Lee E. Corbett, MD
Medical Director, Corbett Cosmetic Aesthetic Surgery and MedSpa