Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage for Surgical Procedures


This blog specifically details incorporating manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) into your post-surgery recovery plan.For more information about manual lymphatic drainage and your lymphatic system, please see my MLD post by clicking here.

Lymphatic Drainage Post-Surgery

Most surgeons recommend lymph drainage to assist with your recovery, ensuring you achieve the best results possible from your surgery and to speed up your recovery time.

If you have had liposuction / body-contouring / lipoplasty, the cannula used to remove the fat not only causes trauma but can leave channels where it has been. These channels can fill with fluid and your tissues can become bruised resulting in an accumulation of blood cells. 

Lymphatic drainage will help dissipate the blood cells and also gently guide the excess fluid – lymph – to your lymphatic vessels thereby preventing a permanent hardening of the tissues, known as fibrosis, or pockets of blood from forming.

If you are having or have undergone a cosmetic procedure such as abdominoplasty / tummy-tuck, Brazilian butt-lift, arm-reduction / brachioplasty, thigh-lift surgery, breast augmentation or reduction or even a mummy-makeover then your consultant will almost definitely recommend lymphatic massage. 

During your surgery your lymphatic vessels are disturbed and it can take about three months for new connections to be made.  

Lymphatic massage can also be carried out before your procedure to prepare your tissue, filtering out waste products and toxins, eliminating excess fluid, viruses or bacteria.  As you will have read above, MLD also increases the production of white blood cells which help heal cuts and damaged tissue.

Booking a series of lymphatic drainage massages for after your op is believed to benefit your recovery and can help prevent infection.  Infection is more of a risk where there is lymphatic congestion which in turn can put pressure on your incision lines causing healing issues.

In fact, anyone having an operation would benefit from MLD. One study by Ebert, Jay R. et al. demonstrated that MLD used postoperatively in total knee replacement patients showed an increase in knee flexion compared to patients who didn’t receive MLD. This study also indicated that MLD helped to reduce pain.

Some surgeons also recommend lymph drainage following surgery to the face, such as rhytidectomy, neck lift, eye lift or surgery for sagging jowls. MLD has been shown to reduce recovery time for those having face/facial lift or other facial enhancements.

To summarise, having lymph massage post surgery can:

  • Reduce your swelling
  • Reduction in bruising and faster healing time
  • Minimise scar tissue
  • Prevent fibrosis
  • Help with pain management
  • Prevent infection
  • Aid with the elimination of waste from the area/s of surgery
  • Help circulate white blood cells to improve the healing process
  • Improve your wellbeing and help with stress relief
  • Is particularly effective when combined with other elements of CDT – complete decongestive therapy.  The combined components of CDT have been shown to achieve a 45-70% reduction in lymphedema volume.

How many sessions of MLD will I need after surgery?

You should be guided by your surgeon.

Most surgeons recommend between 5-12 sessions of lymph massage, although this will also be dependent upon your body’s healing response and the procedure you have had. Someone undergoing multiple procedures such as a mummy makeover is likely to need more sessions than someone having a single procedure.

How soon after my op can I start MLD?

Again, be guided by your surgeon.  Most commonly recommended is 24 hours after your procedure, although a few surgeons suggest waiting two weeks before you start.  

You can have MLD daily however, it is best to go by your doctor’s recommendations for your post-operative recovery plan and your availability to schedule appointments.  

The usual frequency is daily for the first week, alternate days on the second week post op and then monthly maintenance for 5 months.

Please click here, or carry out a search for more information about how MLD can assist after surgery. 

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