After Gynecomastia Surgery: Managing Swelling
We often answer questions on discussion boards and forums about gynecomastia, and very frequently on gynecomastia.org. We’ve found that one aspect of the recovery process that concerns many patients is swelling after male breast reduction. New York residents and men across the country alike ask about this.
Swelling is the body’s natural response to injury or surgery (we often refer to surgery as “controlled trauma”). It is simply the movement of fluid and white blood cells to the surgical area and the body’s effort to heal. Post-op swelling is different for every patient. It can be diffuse and spread over a fairly wide area, or localized. The swollen area can feel hard or soft. Fluid can accumulate soon after surgery, or build up a few days later, and the swelling can be different on the two sides. Maximum swelling usually occurs around 48 hours after surgery – but the body’s urge to swell can last for weeks.
The important thing to note is that moderate swelling is generally not a concern. The body wants to swell for a few weeks after surgery, not just the first few days. We tell our New York gynecomastia patients that it will almost always resolve itself over several weeks, as long as they follow instructions. These normally include wearing a compression garment for at least four weeks. We use compression vests and/or binders for most of our patients; other plastic surgeons use different types of compression garments.
Other measures our New York gynecomastia patients take to minimize swelling include:
- Taking it easy after surgery as directed
- Resting in an elevated position when possible
- Limiting arm movements and lifting for several days
- Avoiding all strenuous exercise for four weeks
Very rarely, a patient may develop a complication following gynecomastia surgery. Excessive swelling may indicate the presence of a seroma, or fluid collection under the skin. A simple procedure to drain the fluid may be performed. Swelling can also indicate the presence of a hematoma, or pool of blood, within the breast. A visit to the surgeon is then needed to determine whether immediate or delayed treatment is in order.
The risk of developing a seroma or hematoma is low, but we always suggest our male breast reduction patients call our New York office if they have any concerns. Certainly, any patient should contact his plastic surgeon to report extreme pain, asymmetric chest enlargement, significant bruising, bleeding from incisions or any other post-op problems.