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Swelling after Surgery: Why It Happens and Can You Minimize It?

Swelling is a universal side effect and result of surgery, and something you should to expect to experience after your plastic surgery procedure. It is a normal part of the healing process. Read on as Dr. Erwin Bulan, a plastic surgeon serving the Northern New Jersey areas, explains why you will swell and how you can best manage the swelling.

The Reason You Swell

The primary reason for swelling after surgery is the trauma to the treated tissues. Know that this is expected, and swelling as well as the associated bruising, is never symmetric.  One side will tend to swell or bruise more that another, and that is a normal phenomenon. Another reason why swelling occurs is because general anesthesia tends to cause the blood vessels to dilate, and the blood vessels can leak fluid into the surrounding tissues. To be safe, most anesthesiologists administer more fluid than is needed, which compounds the swelling temporarily.

How to Minimize It

The worst of the swelling should occur the first few days after surgery. About a week after surgery, it should start to subside. Two weeks after surgery, 75 percent of the swelling should disappear. By six weeks after surgery, nearly 90 percent of the swelling should have dissipated, with any remaining swelling subsiding over the next few months.

Although you cannot completely avoid swelling, you may benefit from the following:

  • Wear your compression garment (if applicable) – compression garments put slight pressure on the treated tissues as they heal. Often this helps minimize swelling during body contouring surgery such as breast augmentation, tummy tucks, liposuction and arm lifts.
  • Consider gentle massage or external radiofrequency (RF) treatments – lymphatic drainage massage by a specially trained massage therapist may be a good option to help reduce swelling. In addition, our external radiofrequency treatments using our Alma Harmony platform can help with the lymphatic drainage. Ask Dr. Bulan if he thinks it would help your case and if he has any recommendations for massage therapists or in-office RF treatments.
  • Take Arnica Montana and Bromelain supplements – these herbal supplements are thought to decrease swelling, bruising and pain right after surgery. We provide these herbal supplements to be taken two days prior to a surgical procedure, and typically continues after the procedure. Ask Dr. Bulan what he thinks about the effectiveness of these supplements and whether they may help you in surgical and office-based injection procedures.
  • Sleep with your head elevated above your heart – if you had facial plastic surgery, make sure to keep your head elevated, even while sleeping. Prop yourself up on some large pillows to make sure you stay elevated and have gravity help with decreasing the facial swelling.
  • Follow all of Dr. Bulan’s instructions – Dr. Bulan will give you specific instructions for your recovery. Many of these instructions are intended to minimize post-operative side effects. Make sure you follow them closely and call our office if you have questions about any of the guidelines.

Contact Our Office

For more information about what you can do to minimize post-operative side effects, feel free to contact our practice. Call or email us today.