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Six Factors That Can Increase Swelling after Cosmetic Surgery

It is natural to expect perfect outcomes following any cosmetic surgical procedure. After all, the entire reason for undergoing such surgery is to enhance certain features of the body. Nevertheless, many patients may not be quite prepared for the reality that it takes time for the body to heal. Patients may not see those final results for a number of weeks (and sometimes months, depending on the extent of the procedure) after surgery, despite careful consultation by our staff at Jefferson Plastic Surgery.

Swelling around the surgery site is a good example of one such side effect patients may not fully expect. Part of our job is not only to make patients aware of what causes swelling following plastic surgery, but also what may increase swelling if patients are not careful. Below are several factors that may make swelling worse following plastic surgery.

What Causes Swelling?

Swelling occurs when fluids pool in certain locations due to lack of circulation. This is sometimes called edema. Excess fluid can also be trapped in the area around the incision site because it has leaked out of the cells in the incision area and pooled around the damaged skin, forming what are known as seromas. In most cases, these will subside within a few days to weeks, depending upon the extent of the surgery.

What Can Increase Swelling?

  • Moderate to heavy activity: Our staff encourages patients to try to move around as much as possible soon after surgery in order to keep circulation flowing to the extremities, which then keeps fluids moving and cuts down on the amount of swelling. However, too much movement can also cause swelling because it may make even more fluid leak out of damaged cells.
  • Bending over: Along the same lines, you will be encouraged to try to bend over and straighten up after surgery, particularly if you have undergone a tummy tuck procedure. However, trying to bend too far may put excess strain on your sutures and induce further swelling.
  • Infection: Unfortunately, infection is a risk with any surgical procedure. If this happens, you may develop swelling in the infected area as the body attempts to pull more white blood cells into the area to fight off the infection.
  • High salt intake: If you have excess salt (sodium) in your diet, you may be contributing even further to swelling following plastic surgery. Excess salt will cause your body to retain too much water, which then leads to fluid leaking out from the cells, leading to edema. Our staff suggests cutting back on sodium in your diet starting two to three weeks prior to surgery.
  • Direct sun or heat exposure: While you may be eager to show off the results of your cosmetic surgery, particularly if you live in a sunny climate, our staff cautions against doing so for at least the first month or so following surgery. Ultraviolet light from the sun’s rays stimulates the skin cells, which can cause them to swell. Furthermore, you may also find that your scars are more noticeable because they may stand out more from the surrounding skin.
  • Not sleeping with the head elevated: Basic laws of gravity tell us that fluids flow downward. Thus, if you have undergone facial surgery, you would want to sleep with your head elevated to help the collected fluids around the incision sites to drain out. Obviously, not doing so will increase the amount and duration of the swelling.

The truth is that you want an optimal outcome from your cosmetic surgery. Understanding what to do (and what not to do) in order to reduce swelling will get you well on your way toward those great results you want.

Questions? Email us today.

To make or reschedule an appointment please complete the form below or call:  (215) 625-6630.

New Patient Appointments Now Available on Saturdays!

CALL US TODAY: 215.625.6630


Jefferson Plastic Surgery is located on the corner of 9th and Walnut streets in Center City, Philadelphia on the 15th floor of the Wills Eye Hospital Building.

Jefferson Plastic Surgery
840 Walnut Street - 15th Floor
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107
Phone: (215) 625-6630
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