An Introduction to Pre-and-Post-Op Care

One of the most important things to understand about breast reconstruction is that there is no one-size-fits all approach at any stage. Your body, mind, and lifestyle impact almost any kind of surgery—breast reconstruction is a complex series of procedures that intersect with other factors at every turn, start-to-finish. In the coming weeks, we will dig into some things that patients, families, friends, and communities can do to make those procedures as smooth as possible. We will also provide a little bit of additional insight into how preparation and recovery vary by procedure.

One of the most essential elements to successful care regardless of procedure is communication. Read on for a few tips on how to keep things clear so that you can prepare for your unique surgery and recovery.

Clarify your terms.

Words like mild, moderate, and light mean different things to different people. Ask your medical team exactly what they mean when they use phrases like “light activity,” “moderate discomfort,” or “as tolerated.” Be sure to communicate what you comprehend in those terms. A few moments of clarification before or after surgery can spare you undue confusion or even pain or injury.

Be as transparent as possible with your surgical team.​​

The factors that can impact your surgery and recovery are far-ranging and often surprising. Ensure that your team is aware of every medication you take, including vitamins and supplements. Even seemingly innocuous products—like ginkgo biloba or ibuprofen—have important consequences. So, too, do your environment and activities.

Routine for you is not routine for everyone—be specific.

Your routine activities can and should factor into your breast reconstruction journey. Give your team as much detail as possible when it comes to your lifestyle, activity level, and existing limitations. For example, if you have small children or grandchildren with whom you like to play, talk to your team about how and when you can play with them. Disclose any prior injuries to any part of your body, especially if you are undergoing natural tissue reconstruction, as these may impact your recovery. Ask for clear, individualized instructions that relate directly to those elements of your life.

Remember that there are no wrong answers.

It can be difficult to open up to your medical team. Clinical settings often feel intimidating, and patients sometimes hesitate to disclose information for fear of judgment. Remember that there are no wrong answers. A quality medical team seeks transparency so that you can work together to appropriately plan and prepare for your surgery and recovery. Practitioners cannot address needs or limitations of which they are not aware.