Ice Packs Safety After Cosmetic Surgery

I am finding that we receive many of the same questions coming into our blog regularly. How about using ice packs to control pain after cosmetic surgery? This answer is not straight forward, because the answer is a “qualified” yes. Using ice bags after surgery is a commonly recommended practice to reduce post-operative pain, swelling and bruising. The application of cold temperature at or just above freezing temperature (32F or 0C) is an effective and safe way to help in the initial healing and swelling phase. I recommend that  patients use ice sealed in plastic bags, such as Ziploc style bags, filled with ice and water for this purpose. It is very important to make sure there is water (liquid) in the bag, because this assures that the temperature of the ice is at or just above the freezing temperature of water.

My patients report that nothing feels better than the cooling effect of ice after breast enlargement surgery. Besides feeling good, it helps to reduce the need for narcotic pain relievers. However, we must also be careful with the temperature of the cold application. The same risks are present regarding both heat and cold. Similarly, patients are unable to feel warning signs for potential risk of damage due to the improper use of cold packs.

Ice, gel pads and bagged frozen vegetables applied directly from the freezer will be well below freezing, thus being too cold and are not suitable. If these are applied to the skin, which is numb and susceptible to injury, frostbite and scarring can result. Therefore, I do not recommend their use. One important exception to any ice application after cosmetic surgery is following fat grafting procedures, because the cold is particularly detrimental to the survival of the grafts. For this reason we do not recommend the use of ice after natural breast enlargement or facial rejuvenation using the fat grafting technique.


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