How to Reduce Swelling After Surgery

How to Reduce Swelling After Surgery

One of the most frustrating things after a tummy tuck is the “swelly belly”.  If you are struggling, you need to know how to reduce swelling after surgery safely and easily.  From simply resting to the right supplements, swelling doesn’t have to rule your life.  Below you’ll find some tried and true methods for helping relieve the discomfort of swelling after you have abdominal surgery.

How to Reduce Swelling After Surgery

One thing that is a given after abdominal surgery is that you will have some swelling.  With any tummy tuck surgery, you will find that this is rather significant.  It can last for a considerable amount of time.  While this may add discomfort, there are a few ways to reduce swelling after surgery that are safe, even after a tummy tuck.

Remember, that no matter what is suggested, it is important that you follow your doctor’s orders.  Not every suggestion works for every body type, so be prepared to try multiple methods to reduce inflammation and swelling.

What Causes Swelling After Surgery? 

With an abdominoplasty surgery, the swelling is primarily caused by the invasive procedure itself.  Cutting your muscles apart and separating them from the fat and skin of your abdomen causes significant trauma.  If you add in the process of liposuction or even excess skin removal, you will find even more swelling happens.

Excessive trauma to your body will cause it to swell.  Swelling is your body’s reaction to the trauma and while it is uncomfortable, it is part of the healing process.  In most cases, it can be referred to as something similar to an internal bruise.  It looks and feels bad, but isn’t a concerning part of your recovery.

Note:  Depending on the type of surgery you have, there are some instances when swelling is also related to the air they use to help open your body up to make exploration easier.  This is usually the case with more invasive procedures that go inside the abdominal cavity and deal with more than the exterior superficial fat and skin.

Make Sure You Get Plenty of Rest

This is one of the best ways to help speed up the healing process. Not only does your body need more rest, but you shouldn’t be on your feet as often as you normally would be. Listen to the doctor’s orders, and get off your feet.

What does it mean to rest?  Well, it’s more than just sitting in the recliner all day.  Resting is a combination of sleep, mental relaxation, and not doing too much physical activity.  After a tummy tuck, you’ll need to be careful about moving around and lifting much.  Most surgeons will tell you it is important to lift no more than 5 pounds and to be careful to not pull or tug on incisions.  All of that is part of the rest you will be told to make a priority.

Water pouring into a tall glass

Stay Well Hydrated to Reduce Swelling After Surgery

Drinking plenty of liquids will also help with reducing the swelling and keep you from becoming constipated after surgery, but that’s not all.  In surgery, especially this one that removes a large portion of your body, you lose a lot of fluids.  Your body will be struggling for a few days to rehydrate and get back to the new normal.  The combination of this, along with the dehydrating properties of most anesthesia as well as pain medication can cause a lot of discomfort in your body.

Hydration isn’t just any fluids.  It is focused on water.  Sure, you can enjoy some juice, coffee, or tea, but the bulk of your daily intake should be water.  I also recommend that you include some water-dense fruits and vegetables on your menu.  Things like watermelon, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, and celery are all excellent choices for eating or having as snacks while you recover.

Tip:  100% pineapple juice is a great choice for the healing benefits of bromelain that is natural in the pineapple.  Also, when drinking tea, choose the Smove Move Tea brand as it promotes regular bowel movements and can combat constipation caused by pain medications.

Avoid Added Salt in Your Foods

Salty foods and other food that contains sodium will only be counterproductive in your desire to reduce the swelling. It sounds like bad news whichever way you look at it. Exercise some restraint and lay off the potato chips and preparing sandwiches that contain your favorite salty lunch meats.

Even though they are convenient when you aren’t feeling up to cooking, processed foods and prepared meals from the freezer section aren’t a good choice.  Stick with fresh fruits and vegetables for snacking, and if you reach for anything processed, let it be something like peanut butter, almond butter, or a protein shake.  These items help your body to stay strong during healing, without packing in too much-added sodium.

You may also want to read about the other side effects of anesthesia after surgery to be aware of what to expect and what foods are best for healing.

Carefully Apply Cold Compression

This can be controversial, so make sure you check with your surgeon on their preferences as well as follow their directions.  Some say a bit of ice during healing is fine.  Others will tell you to avoid ice as it can prevent you from feeling the wound and issues and miss something that needs attention. After having multiple surgeries, I find that listening to your doctor is truly the best.

If, your physician is okay with ice packs, apply the ice to the region of your body that is swollen, and leave in place for 10-15 minutes at a time.  Do this no more than 3-4 times per day, or as directed by your surgeon.

Tip: I recommend investing in the TeliKold Gold Ice Pack for tummy tuck post-operative care.  It is larger and covers more space, as you will likely require post-surgery.

Marking stomach with marker

Follow Doctors Suggestions About Wearing Your Binder

Whether your doctor requires you to wear a full compression garment for complete binding or simply has you pull on heavy-duty Spanx after your surgery doesn’t matter.  Wear the binding suggested as prescribed.  Most surgeons will put you into your binder immediately after surgery while you are still under anesthetic.  Depending upon the type of binder, you may wear this for 23 hours a day, or some will be worn non-stop for up to a week when removed by your doctor.

Most successful post-surgery candidates find that wearing some time of binder or compression garment is important at least for the first 12 weeks after surgery.  Follow the suggestions of your doctor and you will experience the best results.  You may also want to consult this list of supplies for after tummy tuck surgery for other first aid times that assist in healing.

Exercise and Engagement

Yes, you should be resting significantly post-surgery, but exercise is also important.  This is especially important for circulation, and the prevention of blood clots.  Alongside this, it will help reduce swelling.  Limited exercise is important during the first few days of healing, as well as throughout your surgery recovery.

Most doctors recommend light slow and steady walking in 10-15 minute intervals.  The first week this may only be done once or twice daily, but as your strength returns, you will continue to exercise more until you are released for full and regular exercise.

Anti-Inflammatory Medicine

As part of the healing process, you will be prescribed many medications.  Typically these include an antibiotic and pain medication for the first week or so after surgery.  Your surgeon may also recommend you take something like ibuprofen intermittently.  Follow physician orders, but know that an anti-inflammatory may be a good choice.

Surgical team over draped body

Signs of Infection After Surgery: What You Need to Know

Signs of Infection After Surgery: What You Need to Know

Are you worried about knowing the Signs of Infection After Surgery?  Anyone who goes under the knife for a surgical procedure is placed at risk for infection.  While you trust your surgeon and you do all of the right things, it can happen.  Being aware of what infection looks like is important so you can seek treatment immediately to not delay healing.

Image of a surgical tray with tools for a surgical procedure

Signs of Infection After Surgery: What You Need to Know

While these are all signs of infection, they do not always indicate you have an infection.  Some of these can be perfectly normal reactions post-surgery.  Most importantly, if you feel something is wrong or “off”, you should be contacting your surgeon or physician immediately. Never hesitate to seek medical attention.  It is better to check something early and often than to let it go too long.

Fever and chills can be signs of a bacterial infection

You can expect a low-grade fever after many surgical procedures and a tummy tuck is no different.  It is best to ask your plastic surgeon what they consider a fever of concern, but typically it is one that is over 101°, or a fever that doesn’t reduce with the use of Tylenol or Ibuprofen. Chills are often a side effect of anesthesia, so you also want to be aware that these things may happen in the first 24-48 hours after surgery.

While a low-grade fever is common, you should be aware of a fever and chills that is accompanied by any of the other signs of infection listed here.  You also need to watch for any fever after the first-week post-surgery.    Fever is typically the first indicator of a bacterial infection at play, so routinely checking your temperature in the first-week post-surgery is a good idea, especially if you are an already high-risk surgical patient.

Bad smells in an incision are a common sign of microbial infections

Does your incision smell bad?  You will notice odd smells immediately after surgery.  These smells include the cleansers used pre and post-operation.  It can also include the smell of fresh or dried blood on your skin.  However, a smell that is stronger and doesn’t go away with a soap and water cleaning is of concern.

Many say an infection will smell very strong and obvious.  To some, this smells like bad meat.  Others say it smells like body odor, only a bit stronger.  Make note of any smells that seem stronger or different associated with cloudy fluid or pus in or around the incision line.

If there is pus in or around the incision area

After your tummy tuck, you will have a lot of potential drainage from your incision.  If your doctor does a drainless tummy tuck, it will be more significant and last longer than those that have drains post-surgery.  Some draining of fluid is totally normal.  This can be from bright red blood the day of surgery, to the clear and yellowish fluid after a few days as your system continues the healing process.  Your surgeon should give you information about drains and what to expect.

The most obvious sign of infection is oozing of cloudy fluid or pus from the incision itself. If the fluid is yellow or green and has an odor and is accompanied by fever, redness, or other signs of infection after surgery, it is time to call the doctor or seek immediate medical care.

Redness that spreads out from the incision are common signs and symptoms of bacterial infection

Your abdomen will be bruised and irritated post-surgery and will often be dark pink or red in the first 24-48 hours as your body gets through the first hours of healing.  However, if the redness around the incision is spreading out and is also hot or has pus draining in the area, it is most likely a sign of infection.

If there is no pus or drainage accompanied with the redness, your doctor may not immediately prescribe anti-biotics.  They may, instead, mark the edges of the redness to track growth.  If the redness continues spreading, it is a strong indication of cellulitis in the area and will need antibiotics and medical intervention.

A stack of 4x4 gauze pads laying on a dark table

When the incision and area surrounding is hot to the touch

Is the area around your incision red and hot to the touch?  When you place a hand on your incision area, does it feel significantly warmer there than other areas of your stomach?  This is often a sign of bacterial infection brewing under the skin.  If this is accompanied by swelling and general pain, seek medical attention immediately.

When the incision or surrounding area is more painful it can be signs of infection after surgery

When your tummy tuck incision becomes unusually painful to touch, or it is so painful the medications you were given are not helping ease the discomfort it is a sign there may be an issue with the wound.

While pain is expected and is an obvious side effect of having surgery, significantly different or worsening pain can often indicate an underlying infection or surgical issue.  Any exaggerated pain or new-onset pain is a concern that should be addressed immediately with your surgeon.

Up close of a woman in a surgical mask

An overall feeling of lethargy or flu-like symptoms

Flu-like symptoms are often the first indicator of any infection.  This includes exhaustion, weakness, and overall lethargy.  A lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms are also commonplace with infection.  It will be difficult to tell if these are associated with an infection or just part of the healing process.  So, it is important to look at the big picture of all symptoms to rule out infection.

Not all of these symptoms are an immediate indicator that something is wrong.  They are worth considering when in combination post-surgery. You should address all concerns directly with your physician.

What Side Effects of Anesthesia Should I Expect?

What Side Effects of Anesthesia Should I Expect?

What Side Effects of Anesthesia should I expect after I have tummy tuck surgery?  This question is asked consistently by men and women who are planning to undergo abdominoplasty.  As with any surgery, anesthesia may be involved and you should be aware and prepared for potential side effects post-surgical experience.

Woman laying on an operating table with anesthetic mask over her face

What Side Effects of Anesthesia Should I Expect? 

As you prepare for your tummy tuck surgery, you will be consulting not only with your surgeon but also with an anesthesiologist.  Below there are many items that are commonly known as side effects of anesthesia.  Remember that your best and most accurate information on what to expect will come from your physician. Please seek medical consult before making any decisions regarding your health.

Temporary Memory Loss

This sounds more frightening than it actually is for most people.  The use of a drug called, Versed, is a common practice when you are being put under for a surgical procedure.  There are other medications as well that offer similar benefits.  This medication in your IV will allow you to relax and create a short term memory loss that will allow you to not recall discomfort as you go under during a procedure.  It is a benzodiazepine and thus a central nervous system depressant.

While this does cause a bit of memory loss, it will be minimal in most cases.  You will find yourself unable to remember much about those minutes right before surgery, and likely will struggle to remember the first few minutes after you wake up in recovery post-surgery.

Sore Throat and Coughing

While being put under anesthesia for surgery doesn’t always require intubation, it is a common practice for safety.  The tube placed in your throat can cause minor irritation that results in a mild sore throat for a few days post-surgery.  The coughing associated with the irritated throat is a very common side effect of anesthesia.  It is most bothersome as it often jars your core where you may have sensitive incisions and sore muscles.

Up close picture of a womans neck being held by her hand as if it is sore or hurting

For those who are having a hernia or muscle repair along with their tummy tuck procedure, it is important to be prepared with a sore throat spray and some cough drops or lozenges for your recovery period.  This will help the urge to cough stay at bay, and thus protect you from the unexpected pain that comes with coughing.

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    Difficulty with Urination

    Depending on the length of your surgery, you may find that your physician inserts a Foley catheter while you are under anesthetic.  This is most often used for those under for longer than 1-2 hours.  This is to make sure your body is releasing urine properly during surgery.

    If you did have a catheter, you are likely to never feel it is inserted or removed as it will be done after you are asleep and before you wake up in recovery.  For some surgeries that are more in-depth, if a patient will be staying overnight in the hospital, they may leave the foley catheter in place for 24 hours to limit the patient getting up and down and irritating new incisions.

    As a result of being catheterized, some patients find they have a bit of burning or stinging with urination as a side effect of anesthesia post-surgery.  Others may find that their muscles in the pelvic region are slow to wake up and thus urination takes a little more effort.  Both of these can be normal, but difficulties past the first 24 hours after surgery may indicate a further issue that should be addressed.  Make sure that you consult with your physician with any and all concerns about urination.

    Anesthesiologist standing over patient who has been intubated for sedation with anesthesia

    Extreme Cold and Shivering

    One common side effect of anesthesia is to find yourself unusually cold and shivering in the recovery room.  Everyone else may break a sweat while you have teeth chattering.  This is not uncommon and is typically something that goes away within the first few hours after surgery.

    This is most often a result of your body temperature dropping during surgery.  Do not worry, a dropping temperature is typically a very normal and expected part of the surgery.  Your physicians will be watching it closely throughout the procedure to make sure it doesn’t go too low.

    Note: This can also be one of the signs of infection after a surgical procedure so make sure you are staying aware of how your entire body is healing.

    Extreme Exhaustion as a Side Effect of Anesthesia

    Anesthesia naturally depresses your nervous system and causes you to relax.  After you wake up from surgery, you will find yourself battling to stay awake and alert. The combination of medications used in your anesthetic along with the trauma to your body from surgery creates a need for extra sleep.  While it may be a bit annoying, don’t fight this.  Allow your body to rest as it is needed.

    Brunette woman laying on a pillow with arms above her head and eyes closed as if she is asleep

    Nausea and Vomiting

    The number one side effect of anesthesia is nausea and vomiting.  This is most often due to a large number of pain medications administered during a surgical procedure.  While it is a common problem, most anesthesiologists will do their best to prevent this from happening.  If medications in general, and specifically pain medications, cause you to have nausea or vomiting, make sure to alert your surgeon and the anesthesia team.  Ask for extra precautions to be taken.  There is a multitude of additional medication they can include that are anti-nausea and will help control this side effect.

    If you are one of the patients who still suffer from nausea or vomiting post-surgery, there are a few things that can help with symptom relief.

    • Request an anti-nausea medication like Zofran, Compazine, or Phenergan to be prescribed
    • Eat at least a small amount of food with any pain medications you take
    • Stay hydrated as much as possible – surgery dehydrates your body and you will need to replenish regularly and more than normal during in the first 72 hours after surgery.  Ice chips are a great place to start if you don’t feel up to drinking.
    • Sip ginger or peppermint tea
    • Utilize ginger or peppermint essential oils for aromatherapy
    • Try Sea-Bands or acupressure techniques
    • Sniff rubbing alcohol (this seems odd but is very common in recovery rooms and works well)

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      Surgeons hand injecting local anesthetic into stomach of individual laying on surgical table


      Since anesthesia is a depressant, it will also affect your bowels.  Constipation is a common struggle after any surgical procedure that requires a general anesthetic.  Being prepared for this will make your recovery significantly easier to manage.  As a tummy tuck patient, you will not want to use those muscles much in the first few days post-surgery.  Straining for a bowel movement can cause damage to the recently repaired muscles. Preventative measures are highly recommended.

      Start taking a stool softener 2-3 days prior to your surgery date.  Continue taking stool softeners post-surgery for at least the first 1-2 weeks.  Having loose stool is much easier to manage than straining for a movement. Regularly drink hot tea like Smooth Move Tea, eat plenty of fiber, use fiber supplements, stay hydrated, and avoid extremely fatty foods.

      If you are still struggling and feel these methods are not helping, other good options to promote elimination are gentle laxatives, magnesium citrate, laxative suppositories, or an enema.

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        Always Consult Your Physician Regarding Side Effects from Anesthesia

        While this list is a great place to start in learning more of what you should expect, it cannot and does not replace the advice of your physician.  Some side effects affect individuals differently and may be signs of infection, difficulty healing, or other underlying conditions.  Regardless of how commonplace something may seem, always check with your surgeon and physician with any side effect or issue after a surgical procedure.

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