You did the research and booked the surgery, but what about after? What should you expect from tummy tuck post-op healing? Are there things you need? Signs to watch for? Here we will discuss the care and evolutionary process of your body healing after abdominoplasty.

doctor marking stomach of surgical patient

Tummy Tuck Post-Operative Healing 

Tummy tuck surgery, also known as abdominoplasty, is a popular cosmetic procedure that involves the removal of excess skin and fat from the abdominal region. Like all surgical procedures, tummy tucks require a period of recovery to allow the body to heal. Postoperative healing typically takes several weeks. Thus, it is important for patients to follow their surgeon’s postoperative care instructions. This will help you to minimize complications and ensure a smooth recovery.

You Will Need Help With Everyday Tasks For Up To 1 Week

Depending on the type of tummy tuck surgery performed, the patient will have to rest for several weeks. The first week begins with a full day of hospitalization. While it is often an outpatient procedure, that will depend upon your surgeon. It will often be determined by how your body reacts to the anesthesia as well as how invasive the procedure is. For some, an overnight stay may be a part of your care plan.

Once you get home from the surgical center, you will require assistance with daily tasks. Things such as getting up and out of your chair or bed can prove difficult when your core muscles are healing. For this purpose, it is recommended that you keep someone with you. I recommend at least 3 to 4 days, but preferably up to 1 week after the surgery.

In this first week, the help of the family group is necessary. You must be assisted to go to the bathroom, sit, stand up, cook your meals, and take a shower, among others. However, mobility is not limited; on the contrary, the patient can take short walks. Specialists even recommend short but continuous physical activities to avoid the presence of clots.

bedroom set up comfortably for tummy tuck post op healing

You May Have Difficulty Standing Up Straight

While this does not impact everyone, it is a common occurrence to find your body unable to move the way you expect. In this particular situation, it is mostly due to pain in your abdomen from the incisions. As your core heals and the muscles begin to heal from surgery, you will find standing up is easier. And then, one day, you’ll find it doesn’t bother you at all.

During this time, you will be encouraged to continue moving about, taking short walks, and making sure you are getting some movement in on a regular basis. You will not be exercising at all, but short walks are highly encouraged.

Emptying Drains Can Be Messy

While there are some options that do not require drains, it is a common addition to your abdominoplasty to have a drain allowing excess fluid, and blood, to filter out of your body as you heal.

Depending upon the surgery, you will have at least 1 but up to 4 drains. These will be separate small incisions where a tube is placed under the skin and attached to a suction bulb to help the fluids easily flow out rather than stay inside. They can be messy, and if you are squeamish, may be an issue for handling by yourself.

The drains do not hurt, and their removal, while done without any anesthetic, feels simply like a small tug on the skin and it is done. While you may prefer the drainless surgical option, it is important to listen to your surgeon and make sure they feel that it is right for your body.

surgeon in blue scrubs looking into surgical field

There will be multiple follow-up visits with the surgeon

Visits to the doctor do not end after the operation. It is necessary to participate in a postoperative evaluation that the specialist uses to know the physical condition of the patient.

If you stay in the hospital overnight, you will likely be seen just before you are released. This will count as one of your immediate post-op appointments. For those who have an outpatient procedure, it will depend upon the doctor if you will be seeing them the next day or a week after surgery.

In most cases, you will have at least a follow-up after 1 week for drain removal and bindings to be removed. Then, another appointment will happen typically at 3 or 4 weeks, then again at around the 12-week mark. If your body is healing and no further issues arise, this may be it unless you go back for a follow-up for images to add to the physician’s portfolio.

These appointments will be to check the incisions, look for signs of infection, and mostly for you to ask any questions. It’s a time to look at progress, see if the swelling is receding, and consider revisions if some areas aren’t to your expectations.

The pain won’t go away immediately

The pain is related to inflammation and swelling of the affected area. It is normal, but it is temporary, especially if all the doctor’s instructions are followed. However, the pain medications they give you, are likely going to be very necessary for the first 3 to 4 days after surgery.

After the initial week post-surgery, you will find a simple over-the-counter anti-inflammatory is typically more than enough for your pain to be managed. If it is not working, then it is time to talk to your doctor

This is a totally normal process, but if it is severe or chronic, in addition to the presence of blood, it is better to call the specialist. However, this is very rarely needed and is easily avoided by listening to the doctor and their instructions for your recovery.

doctors at operating table with tummy tuck

Expect to see swelling during post up tummy tuck healing

Swelling may occur one year after having a tummy tuck. Is this normal? Absolutely, due to the process, it takes for the skin tissue to heal. Remember that the procedure is complex and during the treatment, there is an interruption of blood and lymphatic flow.

Aside from the expected pain, you will find your abdomen swelling regularly for up to 1 year post-abdominoplasty. This is often not spoken about, but it is a part of the healing process, and specifically is why they tell you to wear a binder for a longer period of time.

The total recovery process can take up to a year to return to normal. That is, the swelling will progressively disappear, at least 12 months after surgery. 

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