Healing After DIEP Flap: A Six Week Guide
By: Courtney Floyd
What can you expect during DIEP flap reconstruction recovery?
For those preparing for DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery, here is a six week break down of what to expect while healing:
The first couple of days after surgery are spent in the hospital recovering. You will have surgical drains during this time. The hospital nurse will help you measure outputs and strip the drains. With the implementation of our ERAS protocol, you should expect to be up walking the morning after surgery. By post-operative day two or three, most patients are ready to be discharged and return home. The remainder of the week is spent getting settled and comfortable back home. You should gradually increase your walking time and distance. Patients traveling from out of state are seen in the office within a few days of discharge from the hospital to enable them to travel back home a week or so after their surgery.
For local patients, a follow up appointment with your PRMA nurse is scheduled within two weeks after surgery. If your drain output is low enough they can be removed. It is important to continue increasing your cardio endurance. Don’t overdo it though! Rest is still important while your body is healing. This is a good time to begin easing into your post-operative range of motion arm exercises that your nurse will provide. By the end of the second week you can switch from the surgical bra and abdominal binder to a wireless bra and panty girdle. (Be sure to get clearance from your doctor or nurse first.) By the end of week two, patients who are not taking any narcotics during the day are free to drive.
You should feel capable of doing more things on your own now, including being more social with your friends if you feel up to it. Most at home medications can be resumed if they haven’t been restarted already, but please clear this with your physician first. Any remaining surgical drains are usually removed. Patients with low-impact desk jobs can return to work at this time. Don't forget to keep up your range of motion exercises!
It’s been one month since surgery already. You will soon follow up with your surgeon to plan the revision stage. Keep increasing your range of motion and stamina!
You should feel almost back to normal in many ways! You may experience new pains in your breast and abdomen as you increase your activity. This will get better over time.
You made it! By week six most patients are released from all restrictions. You can get back to leading your life! Remember though, not everyone heals at the same rate and it’s important to still listen to your body as you resume all activities.
Please remember if you ever have questions or concerns you can reach us at 800-692-5565.