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CosmeticSurg Blog

Dr. Rodriguez discusses Plastic Surgery, Medicine, and Stem Cell Research

How long is the Tummy Tuck Recovery?

calendarRecovery from a Tummy Tuck has to balance two things: the need to get your body going as quickly as possible, versus the need to keep things quiet until your body has had a chance to heal well. So what is the recovery time for tummy tuck?

In the past, patients were told to stay very still for a long time following Abdominoplasty, but that created its own set of problems such as blood clots in the legs, or problems with the lungs. Nowadays patients are encouraged to get moving soon, but that can also have its own set of problems such as wound separations, infections, or fluid collections.

Like most things in life, the best answer is found somewhere in the middle. Here is how we advise our own abdominoplasty post op patients who have undergone surgery in our Baltimore surgery center. We hope you find it helpful as you contemplate whether a tummy tuck might be right for you.

TUMMY TUCK RECOVERY : WEEK 1 (First 5 Days)

The first few days after surgery should be quiet time. Your body needs to rest and recover. Here are more details about what to do in the first five days following your surgery:

Bed Rest and Diet

resting post op patientFollowing Abdominoplasty surgery, you should be in bed with the head of the bed elevated and multiple pillows under your (slightly bent) knees. This is important because keeping your torso elevated helps expand your lungs, decreasing the likelihood of lung problems. This position also relaxes the skin on your belly, which was stretched at the time of closure. With the relaxed skin you have less tension on the wound, so less wound problems and better blood supply for healing.

During these first five days you should not be walking around. Walking should be goal-driven only–such as to the bathroom or to the refrigerator. Too much motion can cause the skin layer to slide against the muscle layer so the two tissues cannot knit together. This results in either fluid collections (seroma) or blood collection (hematoma). Drains can helkp prevent this, but if you move too much fluid will accumulate despite the drains.

You can resume a normal diet as tolerated, but be sure to drink LOTS of fluids, especially in the first 72 hours following surgery. Fluids should not be diet sodas, but rather fluids such as juices or gatorade.

Compression Garment

tummy tuck compression garmentWe have our patients wear a compression garment to diminish swelling and prevent fluid accumulations. It is extremely important that you do NOT take off the compression garment during the first five days post op! It not only helps you heal faster, it also influences your final surgical result!

The compression garment extends at least to mid thigh and has suspenders to prevent folding or displacement of the garment while you are resting.

You should wear the garment 24/7 during this initial post op period. The garment should NOT be removed during the first 5 days.

Drains and Pain Pump

The pain pump is optional, but it is highly recommended and most patients do opt for it. It is inserted at the end of the procedure while you’re still in the Operating Room. It will dispense local anesthetic to the incision area and will provide pain relief. Most patients are able to stand upright much sooner IF they have the pain pump! Learn more about how the  pain pump reduces pain from cosmetic surgery in my video journal.

All tummy tucks surgery patients will have drains put in to collect fluid. Without the drains, the fluid would stay in the wound area and create problems! The drain bulb should be emptied when full and the amount of fluid should be recorded each time you empty it. This process is repeated until the drain is removed in my office. The pain pump is often removed at the same time as the drains.

Bathroom and Hygiene

Get up to go to the bathroom as often as necessary, but always be accompanied by someone who can provide support. You will need the help!

You should be able to use the bathroom without removing the compression garment.

During the first five days, do NOT take a shower. Without removing the compression garment, you may sponge bathe your arms, legs, and face. However, you should not be getting the garment wet and you must not remove the garment.

Pain Medications

Following surgery, it is normal to have pain and discomfort. If you have pain, don’t be afraid to take pain medication.

Pain meds help you to get rest, to breathe better, and to get up as needed with less discomfort. It is absolutely fine to have a pain pump *and* still take the pain meds. Doing both is not too much!

The pain pump is only a local anesthetic, so it works very differently than the pain pills, which are a narcotic. When both the pain pump and pain meds are used together during this initial period, they can really speed up your recovery!

First Post Op Office Visit

doctor's officeOn the 5th day post op, I usually see my tummy tuck patients in my office. Most patients have their drains and the pain pump removed at this time.

With all of the tubes and drains removed, you are feeling more mobile. During this initial post op visit the compression garment is also removed and you’re given a new, clean garment. We then determine the plan of action for yout o follow during the next week of post op.

After this post op office visit, you can shower or bathe. However, the new garment should be put back on immediately to prevent swelling and fluid accumulations.

TUMMY TUCK RECOVERY : WEEK 2

After the sixth day following your surgery, the muscle layer is beginning to knit against the skin layer, but things are not quite set. But now I want the patient to start moving around. I recommend getting up and walking around the room at least 3 times a day. The purpose is to get your muscles moving again, expand your lungs more, and prevent blood clots in the calves.

But remember, don’t over do it because you could still cause the muscle layer to slide against the skin layer and separate, causing a hematoma or seroma. That is why we recommend that you keep wearing the compression garment at all times (24/7) during the second week.

At this point, it is also still important to keep the skin layer relaxed, so keep the head of the bed elevated and your knees bent while resting in bed. When walking, stay a little bent over. Do not try to stand up straight yet, as this will pull on the wound.

During this second week post op, you may still need help getting the compression garment on and off, so it is a good idea to have family and friends nearby. When you go into the shower, use cool water. Don’t take a warm shower at first because when you remove the garment, the blood vessels relax, and the warm water makes them relax even more. If they get relaxed enough, blood can flow away from your veins to your lower body and you may faint. So be sure to use cool (not cold) water.

As far as pain medications, I usually recommend at this time to start tapering the dose. There are several reasons. First, pain can be a feedback mechanism for your body to tell you if you are doing too much. And second, sometimes patients feel too good with pain medications and tend to do too much. Finally, pain pills can make you very constipated, and straining at stool can harm the muscle repair.

TUMMY TUCK RECOVERY : WEEK 3

At this point we begin the recovery phase. Start by going around the house, but refrain from doing much outside activity. You are now beginning to get a feel for your activity level and how much you can tolerate. Let your body guide you. If you can stand completely straight, it’s great, but don’t push it!

Don’t overdo the walking and do not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. You should still not be driving at all.

At week three, you are no longer required to wear the compression garment 24/7, but you must still wear it at least half of the time. You can take the garment off at night, but if you don’t feel totally comfortable, keep it on. Most patients do keep it on the whole month, stating it makes them feel more secure. This is your body telling you things are still a little tight or there is still swelling. Listen to your body and don’t push it.

TUMMY TUCK RECOVERY : WEEK 4

You can now venture out the house, but it is still not time to go shopping at the mall or go on prolonged trips! Many patients do go back to work, provided that there are no physical demands.

Start trying to stretch, gently. Don’t try to lift anything over 5 pounds. You should still not wear any tight garments other than the compression garment.

Even though you are in pretty good shape, it is till not a good idea to drive. During the fourth week post op, sudden turns or slamming on the brakes can still damage your muscle repair.

At this point you may feel a hardness along your wound. Don’t panic, it’s called a healing ridge, and it’s the collagen your body lays down to knit the wound together. It will disappear over the next few weeks. You are still swollen here and there and some areas are numb. This will all get better.

TUMMY TUCK RECOVERY : WEEK 5

At week 5, you can now start to resume normal activities! I should see you sometime during this week for the one month follow up appointment. You may still have some swelling, but your new body profile should be obvious. Start enjoying it!

In summary, if you’re considering a Tummy Tuck you should plan for 3 weeks off of work, with no driving during that initial recovery period. Every body is unique and it’s my hope that this detailed explanation of the first five weeks following abdominoplasty helps you be prepared for your own tummy tuck recovery time.

By Ricardo L Rodriguez MD
Ricardo L Rodriguez on Google +

Posted in Body

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32 Comments

  • wrote
    August 30, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Abdominoplasty or “tummy tuck” is a cosmetic surgery procedure used to make the abdomen more firm. The surgery involves the removal of excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdomen and to tighten the muscle and fascia of the abdominal wall. This type of surgery is usually sought by patients with loose tissues after pregnancy or individuals with sagging after major weight loss.

  • wrote
    August 21, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    I just had my tummy tuck 3 weeks ago! And from day 1 I’ve followed everything that was listed here! This is very helpful and it has given peace of mind thank uou

  • wrote
    July 13, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Lori:
    Thank you for your comments.
    A pain pump is around $250-$300
    Hope this helps!

  • wrote
    July 7, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    I have to say I have been very impressed with your blogs, comments and videos. Thank you very much. Could you tell me the cost of the pain pump?

  • wrote
    May 26, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Ms. Waleska:
    It could be a small recurrent umbilical hernia. You should check in with your surgeon. It may be of no consequence, but I would still check.
    Hope this helps!

  • wrote
    May 22, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Hi I had a tummy tuck a year ago but after 3 month I lift a crib with my dauther and had a bad pain in under the belly bottom so now when I do any king of bending or cleaning all day I get the pain for a couple of days what that could be?

  • wrote
    December 23, 2013 at 7:12 am

    I see many people go home very early. I was in hospital for five nights, amd was pushed to cough a lot because I’m asthmatic. Now I read so many things about not straining. Here’s hoping nothing is wrong. The tummy tuck looked fantastic when I first saw it, but I couldnt wear the garment to start and now I am swollen and sore, but I will see nurse to check things. hope my Christmas present is good news!

  • wrote
    December 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Ruth:
    Thanks for the feed back!
    Just let everybody else know on social media so they can get info on our website!

  • wrote
    December 5, 2013 at 3:29 am

    Wow. What sensible, clear instructions. I am in bed with a horribly swollen stomach-day 8-a telling off from the nurse about moving too much- which I was told to do. My Tt is very good, but bloated and now I’m nervous about the outcome. I had 2 Caesars and a major hip to hip hysterectomy previously but feel out of my depth :)

  • wrote
    August 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Thank you for the thank you!

  • wrote
    August 17, 2013 at 7:27 am

    Excellent Informative Article! Dr. Rodriguez Thank you so much. Reading this made me feel so much better about my tummy tuck that I had 3 weeks ago. You’re Awesome!

  • wrote
    June 7, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    This is great advice! My friend recently had a tummy tuck and she tried going back to work after the first week, needless to say it did not go well. Thanks for sharing!

  • wrote
    June 7, 2013 at 5:36 am

    Farah:
    I appreciate you reading our blog. However, I don’t know what your surgeon did or how he did it.
    The internet is a great source of information for general questions, but when it comes down to your specific case about a specific surgery with a specific surgeon, the best answer is with your surgeon.
    Call his office, and even if he does not answer directly, his nurse or assistant should be able to tell you what is most appropriate for his patients.
    IN GENERAL, 7 weeks should be OK assuming recovery has gone on perfectly.

  • wrote
    June 3, 2013 at 1:51 am

    Hello Dr. Rodriguez,
    I had my tummy Tuck six weeks ago and I am planning to go to the hot-springs next weekend. It will be seven weeks after my surgery. I was wondering if this is OK. I appreciate your advice.
    Thanks.
    Farah

  • wrote
    May 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    I don’t, but I will work on one as many people ask for it.
    Thanks for the tip!

  • wrote
    April 21, 2013 at 2:05 am

    Hi Dr. Do u have a section blog that talks about compression garments after a tummy tuck and lipo procedure? Thanks!

  • wrote
    April 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Alex:
    These types of questions you should be asking your surgeon.
    It probably is due to the muscle being sutured to get your tummy tightened.But ask your Doctor.

  • wrote
    April 13, 2013 at 12:34 am

    Hi Dr. Rodriguez. I’m 7 days post op (tummy tuck) and I’ve noticed that my mid section hurts whenever I laugh. Is that normal? I know the area is still tender and all… I just think its way too painful. Could it be possible that something is internally wrong?

  • wrote
    March 31, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Gay:
    Get on the phone first in the morning and DEMAND to be seen by your surgeon.
    You have a seroma, or fluid collection
    It will need to be drained, and you will need to wear a compression garment.
    Let me know how it works out!

  • wrote
    March 31, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    Thanks for the compliments Renny!

  • wrote
    March 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    My 3rd week after tummy tuck, my stomach is filling up with more fluid. Is this normal or what will the dr. Do when I get to see him.m it wasn’tmlikemthis last week.

  • wrote
    March 29, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you so much for this explanation. I am at 12 days post op. I’m sure that all the girls in the PS’s office told me everything I needed to know at some point after the surgery… but honestly, the pain meds and pain/poor sleep caused me not to remember it all in the correct order.

    Plus I hate to call the PS office frequently and bother the busy staff. Especially if its something they already told me.

    Wonderful help. Great info! ~ Ms. Renny

  • wrote
    March 3, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Alex:
    I don’t know enough about Cool sculpting. It is new. surgeons have to pay a lot for the device and the price is passed on to consumers. If it was that effective a lot of surgeons would pay the price, I just have not seen the excitement from my colleagues.

  • wrote
    February 27, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Hi Dr. Rodriguez. What’s your opinion on cool sculpting? Am I better off just going through with the standard tummy tuck? Thanks!

  • wrote
    February 27, 2013 at 12:23 am

    Thanks again Dr. R.

  • wrote
    February 26, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Alex:
    This is a question you are going to have to discuss with your surgeon when you go in for a consultation.
    There are no easy answers.
    From my experience, I do not recommend ANY procedure until the patient is fully committed.
    There are a couple of things you said that need comment. The surgeon who said your breasts don’t look bad purely made an observation. He would be happy to do your implants- we love to operate.Secondly, you can sleep on your tummy. A lot of my patients do.
    Hope this helps!

  • wrote
    February 26, 2013 at 1:49 am

    Hi Dr. Rodriguez. Would u honestly recommend Breast Augmentation to someone who was on the fence about getting BA? I’ve had 2 children and according to my last PS consult he said they didn’t look too bad…I’ve just read too many negatives about getting them. I’m also a “tummy sleeper” and heard it’s not a good idea once the impants are in! My sister told me that (who has implants and says she misses sleeping on her tummy). I’ve never really cared that much about having “huge” breasts either I just think more than anything, after I get my tummy tuck,it wold “complete the look”. It almost sounds like the there more negatives out weight the positives/benefits. What’s your opinion? Thanks!

  • wrote
    February 26, 2013 at 1:14 am

    Thanks again Dr. Rodriguez for the recommendation! ;).

  • wrote
    February 24, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Alex:
    Scott Barttlebort MD.
    Trained at Yale ahead of me. Very prominent in the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. More in the San Diego Area, but worth the trip. Tell him I sent you!

  • wrote
    February 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Alex:
    Thanks for the feedback.
    Actually, there is a lot of tissue plane adhesion that has to go on, as well as postoperative discomfort. Three weeks is at the shorter limit of recovery you will need.

  • wrote
    February 23, 2013 at 1:47 am

    Dr. Rodriguez can you please recommend any good plastic surgeons in the south Orange County, CA area?

  • wrote
    February 22, 2013 at 1:11 am

    Dr. Rodriguez thank you very much for tummy tuck recovery article! I’m planning on getting a tummy tuck in the next couple of months and wasn’t exactly sure how much down time I needed. My PS said 2 weeks but I had no idea that driving shouldn’t be done during the first 3 wks post-op! I was only planning on taking 2 full wks off work but now I’m thinking I may take 3!

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