Proper Ice Application after Cosmetic Surgery

ice pack w water

Proper ice application to reduce pain, swelling and bruising after cosmetic surgery is considered helpful. However, there are safety guidelines for properly applying ice during recovery. Caution needs to be used to avoid damage to delicate incisions and the surrounding tissue.

I recommend that my patients use ice and some water in sealable plastic bags, such as Ziploc style bags. It is very important to make sure water is visible in the bag, as it assures the temperature of the ice is just above the freezing temperature to eliminate the risk of unknowingly causing frostbite to tissue that may still be numb from surgery. I strongly discourage ice alone, gel pads or bagged frozen vegetables applied directly from the freezer to the skin, due to being well below freezing, and may cause tissue damage. Therefore, using an ice bag filled with some water is both recommended to reduce swelling and patients report it also helps to reduce pain following their surgery. *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.

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