Post-surgical swelling (edema), especially fluctuating edema, is a normal part of the body’s healing process. Why? Any incision through the skin (or dissection under the skin) temporarily interrupts the previous blood and lymphatic flow to these areas. The body responds by releasing cytokines (cell signalling proteins) that serve to heal the area by making the surrounding tissue barriers “leaky.” In doing so, the surrounding vessels can absorb excess fluid, send in wound healing cells (macrophages, neutrophils, etc) and direct new blood/lymphatic vessels to form in the surgical area. The faster your body is able to redirect this flow, the quicker, and most importantly, the less noticeable, the swelling becomes. In some people, this can last many months, but this is the exception.
Why didn’t this happen to my friend/family member who had the same procedure?
The same reason that you can be identified by your fingerprint, everyone heals at different rates. Some people have minimal swelling, some have fluctuating swelling that is directly dependent on: food intake (salt), exercise (blood pressure), and heat (it’s hot in Texas!). I advise close post operative follow-up to develop a unique plan to address these issues and minimize their effect (like sleeping at an incline, applying cool compresses daily, and limiting salt intake and heat exposure). Many patients are especially keen to restart their exercise regimens. Exercise is great, but sometimes modifications need to be made to limit the facial redness and swelling that occur with it (ex: indoor lap swimming 3 weeks post op is great exercise, limits sun exposure, and dissipates massive amounts of body heat).
It is always a good idea to visit your surgeon if you have concerns about your wound healing.
Please note: Drainage, increasing pain, erythema (redness), and warmth (of surgical area compared to normal skin) are signs of pending or active infection and are NOT normal! See your surgeon as soon as possible!