What should I expect when recovering from a tummy tuck?

Erik A. Hoy, MD
Plastic Surgery
You should expect to play a large role in your recovery. Understand that you will need to be able to motivate yourself to walk and get about on the day after your surgery, while remembering not to do too much. Mild discomfort and a feeling of tightness in your lower abdomen should be expected. Mild pain medications prescribed by your doctor will help with this initial soreness. Sleeping with several pillows beneath your shoulders and knees should help, as will walking with a slight bend at your waist. This tight feeling should resolve after a week or two, but your tight new stomach will remain! Feel free to wear clothes that flatter your new physique if you so choose, just remember to avoid those garments that rub or bind in the areas of your scar. Some surgeons may recommend that you wear a binder, or compressive garment for some period after surgery. This will help prevent any fluid from accumulating in the plane of your healing wound. While we are on the subjects of clothing and incisions, be sure to keep your surgical sites covered and out of direct sunlight for several months. This will allow the scar to mature with a minimum risk of hyper- or hypopigmentation (becoming a lighter or darker shade than the surrounding skin).
Stuart A. Linder, MD
Plastic Surgery
Patients who recover from a tummy tuck should expect six to eight weeks of significant swelling. Drainage tubes are placed for seven days in order to reduce fluid that may form underneath the flap. Fluid can be both from the liposuction fluid, as well as serous fluid, and small amounts of blood that may form under the flap from the surgery post-operatively. The swelling of the abdominal wall and flap will be significant for the first three to four weeks.

Normally sutures are removed two weeks to 17 days post surgically. Our patients are maintained on antibiotics for one week, as long as the drainage tubes are in place. Patients should refrain from heavy lifting, abdominal wall muscle activity to prevent hematoma or hemorrhage from tearing internal sutures.

Scarring is the most common postoperative longterm problem which may be associated with keloid, hypertrophic scarring, hypopigmentation, and wide spread scars. Our patients ar wear a binder for approximately six to eight weeks post surgically which helps to reduce swelling, as well as may help to soften the abdominal wall flap.
Tara Whitworth
A tummy tuck procedure involves making an incision just above the pubic hair line, removing the excess skin and fat, and tightening the abdominal muscle. The recovery time for a tummy tuck varies for each individual, but generally takes at least 6-8 weeks.

You will need someone to drive you home after the surgery and stay with you for the first 2 days. You will go home with a compression garment that you will need to wear at all times for the first 6 weeks to help control swelling and support your tummy as it heals. You will also go home with a drain or possibly two drains. You will need to empty and record the contents of your drain several times a day. The drain will stay in place from 10 to 14 days.   

You will be sore and tight for several days after surgery. Your doctor will prescribe pain pills to help ease your discomfort. You will also be prescribed an antibiotic. It is important that you do not stand up straight or lie flat for the first week as you do not want to put any strain on your incision. Limit your activity for the first few weeks and keep your follow-up appointments.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.