Plastic surgeons have differing opinions as to how long patients should wait to resume exercise after breast augmentation, with recommendations ranging from a few weeks to a few months after surgery.
"This recommendation is based on the belief that exercise could increase the complication rate, diminish scar quality and jeopardise surgical results," according to the authors.
Toward providing evidence to guide these policies, Basile and Oliveira designed a study in which patients undergoing breast augmentation were randomly assigned to early exercise versus standard restrictions. One week after their procedure, women in the exercise group began a supervised exercise programme - either aerobic exercise or strength training, three times weekly for 12 weeks. Patients assigned to the control group were advised to avoid exercise for 12 weeks after surgery.
At a one-year follow-up, complication rates and scar quality were compared between groups. In addition, patient satisfaction with their breast augmentation results was assessed using the validated BREAST-Q questionnaire. Seventy-five patients in each group completed the study.
The results supported the safety of early exercise. The overall complication rate was 6.9 per cent in the exercise groups and 7.5 per cent in the non-exercise group. Complications were generally minor; none of the patients needed revision surgery during the 12-month follow-up period. Scar quality was also similar between groups.
Unexpectedly, patient satisfaction scores were higher for women assigned to early exercise. The average satisfaction score on the 100-point BREAST-Q was 83 in the early exercise groups versus 66 in the non-exercise control group. Outcomes were similar for women assigned to aerobic exercise versus strength training.
That may seem counterintuitive to surgeons who recommended that their patients avoid physical activity while recovering after surgery. However, Basile and Oliveira noted that the findings are consistent with previous studies showing that early postoperative exercise is beneficial and does not increase complication rates after several types of surgery, including cardiac surgery.
"The better self-reported outcomes could be attributed to the effect that exercise has on mood and quality of life in general," Basile and Oliveira wrote.
They think that might be especially important in women choosing to undergo breast augmentation, who tended to be more concerned with fitness.
The researchers added, "There is an obvious appeal for this group of patients to be operated on and quickly return to exercising."