• Liz Jester

Lymphatic Drainage After Plastic Surgery

Updated: Oct 28, 2018


Manual Lymphatic Drainage administered by a knowledgeable practitioner can drastically reduce the swelling, stiffness, and pain that are part of every post-operative recovery process.




Why do we swell after surgery?


Following a surgical procedure, edema, or swelling, is commonplace. When we go under the knife, we are putting our tissues through a trauma, which results in an increase of fluid and white blood cells to the compromised area. Additionally, anesthetics contribute to edema because they cause a dilation of our blood vessels. This can result in fluid leakage through capillary walls, and this fluid becomes stagnant in the surrounding tissues. Add to that the fact that lymphatic vessels are often damaged during surgical procedures, and you have a recipe for edema: an excess amount of fluid, and a filtration system whose pathways have been compromised.


This is no reason to panic; edema is a natural response to surgical procedures, and it signifies a healing process is taking place within your tissues. The severity of the swelling, and the length of time it lasts, depend on the procedure itself, and a few other factors such as your overall health, activity level, fluid intake, and diet. Swelling can last weeks to months. Patients who've had tummy tucks and other invasive lower body procedures sometimes report swelling even up to a year or more after the procedure. However, by following your surgeon's instructions, drinking plenty of water, wearing your compression garments, and receiving a series of Manual Lymphatic Drainage sessions, your healing process can be greatly expedited.


How does Manual Lymphatic Drainage help after surgery?


Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is a precise, gentle technique developed by physicians, that assists your body's lymphatic system in absorbing, filtering, and moving all that excess, stagnant fluid. When receiving MLD following a cosmetic surgical procedure, most clients experience immediate results -- feeling lighter and more mobile -- within the very first session. A series of sessions, typically administered 2-3 times a week, can produce drastic results within several weeks. Most clients walk away after their final session able to return to their daily lives without pain and stiffness. When patients go without MLD and other important post-surgical care routines (such as wearing compression garments), swelling can harden into fibrosis, where the tissues become permanently hardened, and a pocket of fluid known as seroma can also form. Many surgeons prescribe MLD to help their patients reduce discomfort more quickly, prevent fibrosis and seromas, and optimize results.


To complement MLD in your recovery process, it's also important to follow your doctor's advice, which generally includes using your compression garments, drinking a healthy amount of water, getting some gentle movement into your daily routine, and eating a healthy diet that's low in salt and sugars.


How long should I wait to receive Manual Lymphatic Drainage?


This depends on the procedure and your surgeon's advice, however, surgeons often recommend you begin your MLD treatment as soon as your drains are removed, which typically occurs about 7 days post-op.

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