The Day of Your Breast Surgery

What to Expect

Before Your Breast Surgery

In the hospital on the day of surgery, you will change into a hospital gown and wait in the preoperative holding area. You can have one or two family members or friends with you in the room.

If you are having a procedure by the radiologist such as wire placement to mark a lesion, you will be taken over to the radiology suite for that procedure.

Dr. Sandford (your surgeon) will check on you. She will often draw some markings on your breast to help with the surgery. Sometimes, she will draw the actual incision although when there are wires in place, the bandages over the wires can cover the skin where the incision would go. Usually these marking are done with a felt-tip Sharpie style marker. The pre-operative nurse will see you and check on your medical history. The nurse will also start an IV and make sure all your paper work is in order. You will also be visited by the anesthesiologist who will be doing your case. They will do a brief interview and exam. They will also explain, in general terms, how they plan to manage you while you are in surgery. There will be an opportunity for you to ask any questions that you might have about your anesthesia. The anesthesiologist will then have you sign a consent that is similar to the consent you signed for surgery. You will then meet the nurse who will be with you in the operating room. There can be a final round of hugs and kisses then that nurse will get you prepared to be wheeled into the operating room.

You will be wheeled into the operating room on a wheeled bed. Operating rooms can feel chilly. Don’t worry, the nurse will have nice warm blankets to wrap you up in. The anesthesiologist will already be there to greet you again. The nurse will introduce you to the OR team and ask that you confirm that you are who we think you are and that we have the correct procedure planned. You will be moved over to the operating room table. The anesthesiologist will then start your anesthesia.

During Breast Surgery

Sometimes, surgery starts with an ultrasound. The ultrasound is done to help confirm where the tumor is in the breast, it may also show clips and wires placed by radiology. More marks are made on the breast and a final surgical plan. The nurse will clean your skin and then the team will place several layers of sterile drapes to keep the operative field protected. An incision will be made and the steps of your specific surgery will then unfold. Any tissue that is removed will be sent to the pathologist for evaluation. It can take 3 to 5 days to get the pathology report back.

If indicated, the surgeon may also do a sentinel lymph node biopsy or axillary lymph node dissection. In the final stages of the surgery, your breast surgeon will check the surgery areas for bleeding. Sometimes, it is indicated to insert surgical drains. This is uncommon unless an axillary lymph node dissection or mastectomy was performed. Drains are long tubes that are inserted into your breast area or armpit to collect excess fluid that can accumulate in the space where the tumor was. The tubes have plastic bulbs on the ends to create suction, which helps the fluid to exit your body. Steps will be taken throughout your surgery to make the cosmetic appearance of the breast looks as nice as possible. This includes how the tissue is put back together. Then your breast surgeon will stitch the incision closed. In almost all cases dissolvible stitches are used that are on the inside. The surgery site will usually be covered by a special protective glue that seals the wound shut.

After Breast Surgery

You will be moved to the recovery room after breast surgery, where staff will monitor your heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. If you are in pain or feel nauseated from the anesthesia, let your nurse and they will be able to give you some medication to help.

If we have any medical concerns, you will be admitted to the hospital. However, the majority of breast surgery patients are able to go home after their procedure.

If your incision was covered with a layer of protective glue, you should be able to shower the day after your surgery. You should get a brief list of instructions to help guide you. Our philosophy is to keep it simple and avoid a lot of restrictions.

Our practice is to make your post-operative appointment at the time of your pre-operative visit. If we overlooked this detail, or you do not recall the date and time, call the office for clarification.