Complications after Breast Surgery
Reconstructive surgery is often required in female cancer patients that had their breast removed. Modern breast reconstruction includes improved techniques and better implants. Anyway reconstructive surgery is associated with certain risks. There are some general risks connected to any surgical procedure and particular risks of breast reconstruction.
Complications that can occur after breast surgery include following: complications associated with general anesthesia, pain and discomfort, bleeding, infection, accumulation of fluid under the wound, excessive scar tissue, itching, trouble moving and numbness or altered sensation in the upper arm or armpit.
Pain and Discomfort
Pain and discomfort are common risks of any surgical procedure. Degree of pain is not the same in every patient. Sometimes women receive analgesic to relieve the pain for two or more weeks after breast reconstruction. It is believed that women who receive painkillers after surgery have quicker recovery. Also, there could be some painful moving of the arm above reconstructed breast. This pain will be particularly severe if surgery included removing of the lymph nodes from armpit. Lymphedema is the swelling of the arm on the side of the surgery due to removal of the lymph nodes. In this case, it is important to maintain using the arm and doing special exercises.
Wound infection is another common complication of every surgery. This infection comes along with redness and swelling of the incision with foul-smelling drainage and possibly high body temperature. Post-surgical infections are treated with antibiotics. After releasing from hospital, women should check the incision regularly and inform their doctor if notice any changes.
Accumulation of Fluid under the Wound
Fluid normally accumulates under incision after breast surgery. This fluid can be drained using drainage tubes connected to vacuum drainage bottles. Draining is done for several days after operation. After removal of drainage tubes some women experience collection of blood (haematoma) or fluid (seroma). While most of the time fluid is absorbed by the body, the area can be drained by needle if amount of collected fluid is too large. This will be performed by a surgeon or nurse.
Every wound starts to itch in process of healing. Women should avoid scratching and wait until itching resolves by its self.
Numbness and Tingling
After breast surgery, women normally experience numbness as well as altered sensation in the upper arm and armpit. Sometimes stiffness of the shoulder can occur also. This is often complication of mastectomy surgery.
This complication can happen, if surgeon has removed some tissue from the abdomen during breast reconstruction. This will cause difficulty bending and stretching for several days after operation.