UCLA Campus    |   UCLA Health    |   School of Medicine Translate:
UCLA Health It Begins With U

The UCLA Division of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery

Print
Email
Share

Post-Operative Recovery

The information provided on this page should not be construed as medical advice - it is intended to provide you with an overview of the post-operative recovery process that typicall follows reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.  It is important to discuss the post-operative recovery phase of your treatment with your surgeon.  He or she will provide you with a detailed set of instructions based on his or her surgical plan and your specific medical history.

Recovery:

  • It's important to have a good friend, family member, or loved one there to take care of you for the first 48 to 72 hours after surgery.  You'll need someone to wake you for your medications, help you to the bathroom, prepare your food for you, and to be there in case there is an emergency.
  • You can expect to have some post-operative discomfort.  Take your pain medications.  Studies have shown that patients who are in pain or are under an undue amount of stress require significantly more healing time.  Follow your doctor's instructions, take your medication, and take care of yourself.
  • If your doctor has prescribed antibiotics, be sure to take them.  Finish the entire course and do not skip pills.
  • If your doctor prescribes icing, do not place ice packs or cold compresses directly against your skin.  Follow your doctor's instructions and be sure to change your ice-pack frequently.  Keeping the area cool will help reduce your swelling and discomfort, especially during the first 48 hours.
  • You'll want to eat light during the first 24 hours after surgery, but be sure to eat something, even if it only consists of a few bites.  Taking medications on an empty stomach can cause nausea and dizziness.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water. 
  • Take your temperature regularly.  An elevated temperature could be a sign of an infection.
  • Remember, post-operative swelling is normal.  It will subside in time.

 
Dressings & Drains:

  • Follow your doctor's instructions and use the dressings provided.  They will provide the right amount of compression.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions on bathing and dressing changes. 
  • If a drain was placed, it should be emptied 3 - 4 times per day and its output recorded.  Drains need to be in a compressed state in order to work.
  • Your drains will be removed during your post-op appointment.

 
Activity:

  • You will need to rest frequently during the first week of your recovery.  Don't plan on doing anything more stressful than walking around the house.
  • Give your body a chance to recover.  Do not exercise until your doctor says you may do so.
  • Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while on pain medication.
  • No housework until your doctor gives you the okay to resume normal activity.
  • No smoking.  Even second-hand smoke can interfere with your healing.  (If you were a smoker, now would be a good time to become an ex-smoker.)

 
Medications:

  • All medications should be taken only as prescribed.
  • Do not drink alcohol while taking medication for pain.
  • Pain medicine taken on an empty stomach may cause nausea.  It should be taken with food.
  • Your surgeon will tell you when it is safe to resume taking your regular medications after surgery.  
  • If you take aspirin or Coumadin, ask your doctor when you should resume.

 
Immediately Contact Our Office:

  • If you have a temperature greater than 101 degrees.
  • If you experience persistent vomiting. 
  • If you have excessive bleeding that saturates the dressing.
  • If you have a sudden increase in drainage, pain, or swelling at the incision site or surrounding area.
  • If you have any questions regarding your care, post-operative instructions, or medications.
UCLA Rated One of the Top Hospitals in the Nation