Swelling: How much is normal?

Swelling is normal part of surgery.   In fact, it is a normal part of most situations where the body is injured, whether it is trauma from a fall or a medical disease like pneumonia.
The process of tissue swelling begins to occur immediately when surgery is started.   It can initially be seen next to the edge of the incised skin.   The tissues adjacent to the incision also begin to swell.   These are the first steps in the stages of normal healing.     Swelling continues as tissues are dissected to allow implant placement (breast enlargement), to allow fat removal (liposuction), or to allow skin and muscle tightening (facelift).   As I complete surgery, allowances must be made for swelling as the final sculpting is completed.
The process of swelling continues as patients recover.   Maximum swelling is usually between 48 and 72 hours after surgery.   This swelling will extend beyond the surgery site to involve adjacent areas.   In the case of breast enlargement, swelling will extend onto the chest, back and abdomen.  Patients may also notice swelling in distant areas, such as hands and feet, areas well removed from the surgical site.   The most distressing to some patients, is the  aspect of temporary weight gain due to the extra fluid.  This temporary fluid is normal and passes with time.
The question I am often asked, “When will this go away?”     Swelling will begin to pass out of your body following 2 to 3 days after surgery.   It is naturally excreted in your urine.   Initial resolution is rapid, with the vast majority of swelling gone in four to six weeks.  Complete resolution of any remaining swelling may take as long as six to twelve months.  Although waiting this long to see a final result is frustrating to many patients, this is simply part of scar maturation and the physiology of  internal healing.  So once again, patience is a virtue!

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