Looking after your wound after breast surgery
Most women make an uneventful recovery from breast surgery, quickly returning to their normal daily activities. Following breast surgery, there is normally one wound in the breast.
The wound will usually be covered by a quality waterproof , transparent dressings called Leukomed Control or PICO (NPWT = Negative Pressure Wound Therapy ). PICO dressings are used for high risk patients with chronic conditions and complex breast procedure. These dressings should remain in place until your postoperative appointment seven to ten days after surgery. You may shower as usual with the waterproof dressing in place. The wound is usually closed with dissolving stitches which don’t need to be removed. Most patients don’t go home with stitches that need removing.
The day after surgery, you may shower as usual and pat the wound dry using a soft, clean towel. Allowing the wound area to get wet in the shower will not cause any damage, in fact, keeping the area clean helps prevent infection and encourages healing. It is, however, better not to soak the wound area in a bath. Swimming should also be avoided until the wound has healed.
During surgery, a drainage tube (drain) may be placed in the breast wound. This may be removed in the hospital before you go home although it may need to stay in for longer. If you go home with the drain in, you’ll usually have help looking after it. The hospital will arrange this for you, through the community nursing team. The drain will be removed at the appropriate time according to your surgeon’s instructions.
In some cases, it may not be possible to arrange community nursing and you will be shown how to look after the drain yourself. You’ll be asked to keep a record of the volume of fluid that comes down the drain each day. This is important as it will guide the decision as to when the drain should be removed. Breast care nurses will be available to advise you.
It’s important to perform the arm and shoulder exercises recommended by your doctor and physiotherapist. You should try to use your arm for normal daily activities, within the limits of pain, to prevent arm and shoulder stiffness.
Wound healing is not delayed by doing arm exercises or by using your arm as usual. Some patients worry that exercising may ‘pull open’ their wound, but this isn’t the case. If you have a drain in place you’ll be asked to do your shoulder and arm exercises only to shoulder height until the drains are removed.