Healing and Progress: Top Surgery Recovery Timeline Revealed
Many transgender and nonbinary patients wait a long time to receive life-changing, gender-affirming care. So naturally, you’re ready to feel more comfortable in your body and will likely feel anxious about the recovery time for top surgery after choosing to undergo the procedure. The procedure requires planning to take time off of work, school, and strenuous activities. You’ll also need a supportive caregiver to lean on, so it’s important to understand the top surgery recovery timeline.
The healing process is different for everyone and can depend on the type of surgery performed. Top surgery is performed on individuals looking to achieve a flatter chest, or for individuals seeking a more feminine, full-breasted chest. The FTN (female to nonbinary) or FTM (female to male) top surgery recovery timeline is generally a week or so longer than MTN or MTF (male to female) procedures. The most popular procedure for people who are medium to large chested is double incision top surgery, for which the recovery timeline is about six weeks.
Let’s dive into what to expect for top surgery recovery, week-by-week:
The Day of FTM or MTF Top Surgery
Top surgery procedures typically last between 2-3 hours. When you wake up from surgery, it’s normal to experience some discomfort, swelling, and bruising. Your chest will be wrapped in gauze dressings, surgical drains, and a compression binder or surgical bra to support the healing process. Over the next day or two, your discomfort may increase as the anesthesia wears off and your body adjusts to the changes.
During recovery, pain medication and antibiotics provided by your top surgeon in Ohio will aid in managing pain and discomfort and reduce the risk of infection. Most patients are cleared to return home on the same day but will require assistance from a loved one or caregiver to help with driving and strenuous activities. Expect to sleep on your back for the first week to prevent pressure on the surgical site.
Your initial post-operative appointment will take place during your first week of recovery. At this time, the dressing is removed, allowing you to witness the immediate results of top surgery. Although visible outcomes are evident right away, it might take 3-6 months for the final desired results to materialize as scars whiten and fade over time.
During the initial recovery period, avoid lifting anything heavier than 10 pounds. Practice basic self-care tasks like brushing your teeth, showering once your dressings and drains are removed, and eating by yourself, but minimize overall arm movement. Light walking is encouraged to enhance circulation and boost your mood. You’ll still feel sore and swollen for the first week, which can be helped with pain medication, ice, and, in some cases, the continued use of special compression binders.
During weeks 2-3 of top surgery recovery, you’ll achieve a noticeable reduction in swelling, soreness, and bruising and an increase in mobility. However, it can take up to 4-6 months for swelling to disappear completely. Be patient and gentle with yourself as your body adapts to the change. If you’ve undergone FTN or FTM top surgery, you might transition from wearing a compression binder to a softer, more comfortable garment as directed by your plastic surgeon. If you’ve undergone a breast augmentation, you may be able to wear a soft sports bra for support instead of no bra or a surgical bra.
Continue to engage in light activities, but you should still limit reaching, lifting, and raising your arms overhead in general. These movements can set back your progress and increase the risk of scarring. Schedule regular follow-up appointments with your medical team to ensure you’re on track and healing as expected. Many people are cleared to return to non-physical occupations in weeks 2-3.
Approach weeks 4-5 with a determined mindset. Monitor your incisions as they continue to heal. As you progress through this stage, it’s common to feel a growing sense of satisfaction with your top surgery results, increased energy levels, and the relief of resuming a near-normal routine.
Gradually, you can increase the intensity of your lower body exercises, expand the range of motion in your arms, complete more strenuous tasks, and be free of weight restrictions. Listen to your body and the advice of your care team to advance your abilities without overdoing it.
After 6-8 weeks, the worst of your discomfort should subside, and you can typically resume physical exercise, including sports. Your chest or breasts will settle into a more natural-looking appearance, and your incision scars will continue to fade. You should still consult with your care team to monitor the healing process and discuss any concerns you may have. During this time, it’s also important to check in with yourself mentally or speak with a therapist. While top surgery is often a relief for many people seeking gender-affirming care, it’s still a major adjustment and an emotional recovery period. There’s no definitive answer on how long top surgery recovery will take, so it’s okay if you still have a ways to go, physically or emotionally.
Post-Op Bliss: Top Surgery Recovery Tips for a Positive Experience
- Don’t shower until after your post-operative appointment when the dressing is removed. Use baby wipes and sponge baths to freshen up as you heal.
- Ice the surgical site to decrease inflammation and bruising.
- Don’t lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk in the first week of recovery. Avoid strenuous exercise but engage in light walking if you feel up to it.
- Eat a balanced, protein-rich, low-sodium diet to promote healing. Abstain from smoking and drinking as these activities can weaken your immune response.
- Use over-the-counter treatments to minimize scarring.
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that buttons or zips in the front to minimize pain when changing.
- Lean on your support system to discuss your anxieties around the top surgery procedure and healing journey.
- Trust the process. While the 6-8 week recovery period can be uncomfortable, use the image of you feeling more comfortable in your body as motivation to take care of yourself and see it through.
Surgical Excellence Unveiled: Top Surgeons in Columbus, Ohio
Midwest Breast & Aesthetic Surgery is home to trusted OH plastic surgeons who have specific training and experience in gender-affirming surgeries. We’re here to answer all your questions about top surgery complications and make individualized recommendations on the best procedure for your situation and lifestyle. Your comfort and well-being are at the heart of our practice, and we aspire to empower you to live your fullest, most authentic life through top surgery.