By: Gigi Dhaliwal, MSPAS, PA-C, Crane Center
The big day is here, all of that hard-work and preparation for surgery has finally paid off and excitement and joy are radiating off your face as you are wheeled into the operating room to finally feel like yourself in your body. The next few moments are a blur followed by you awakening in recovery and being like what…? You look down and are immediately reassured, smile and go back to bed… because you know, anesthesia.
A few hours go by and you’re finally home and chilling on your recliner and go, “now what?” Not to worry, I got your back. Here are the 5 most important things to keep in mind after having top surgery.
1. Keep the binder on
I hear you: it’s uncomfortable, everyone hates it and yes, we put it on extremely tight but that’s because it is extremely important. This dreadful binder helps reduce the risk of developing any fluid or blood collections – we like to refer to them as seromas and hematomas. The good thing is, your time with this binder is short-lived and soon you will say goodbye to binding your chest forever!
2. Create a custom pain management regimen to keep you comfortable
Pain management is extremely important after any surgery. We want to make sure you are comfortable during your recovery and are in as little discomfort as possible. The good thing about top surgery is that the pain is generally described as a “soreness” rather than a strong discomfort. Most patients only require strong pain medication for the first few days after surgery and then can transition solely to Tylenol or NSAIDs. It’s important to understand the patterns to your discomfort so you tackle the pain before it worsens. Tip: keep the stool softeners handy.
3. Limit activity and find a good TV show to binge watch
This is your excuse to find a brainless TV show to binge watch, whether it be Tiger King on Netflix or Mandalorian on Disney+, now is your chance to be claim the King of the Remote throne. Get comfortable and relax, we recommend sitting at a reclined position with a bunch of snacks on your lap. Ambulating is still very important, though. It is recommended that you walk 15 minutes at least 4 times a day. This is easy to squeeze in between episodes.
4. Sponge baths only because again… keep that binder on
This is usually the part our patients hate the most, “No showers? Noooo…” I get it, there’s very little a good old shower can’t fix. Again, this is an important rule because we just can’t remove that binder too early. Good news is, sponge and sitz baths are still okay as long as they don’t get the binder wet. Basically, we want to keep that binder dry and on at all times.
5. Listen to your body
This is an important pointer, because who knows your body better than you? It can be very difficult (aka impossible) to assess an area that is covered with dressings and so how do we know something unusual is going on? This is where the wise patient comes in. If you feel anything out of the ordinary such as increasing pain, pain out of proportion, or something that just doesn’t feel right – let your medical professionals know so they can guide you through the proper management of your symptoms.
Well, that concludes what I feel are the top 5 things to be aware of after chest masculinization surgery. I hope this was informative!
Gigi Dhaliwal, MPAS, PA-C is a Nationally Board-Certified Physician Assistant who specializes in reconstructive surgery. Gigi works closely with both Dr. Michael Safir and Dr. Angela Rodriguez at the Crane Center for Transgender Surgery in San Francisco, assisting with the management of patients during all aspects of their surgical transition.