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Tummy Tuck Recovery

A tummy tuck is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures performed every year for both women and men according to statistics published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. If you are contemplating undergoing any type of tummy tuck surgery, it is important to understand the tummy tuck recovery and healing process is associated with the technique used and ranges from 4 to 12 weeks. Knowing what to expect, coupled with a bit of advanced planning, should make your abdominoplasty recovery smoother.

What Is The Typical Tummy Tuck Recovery Timeline?

If you are wondering how long the recovery from a tummy tuck will take, the answer will depend on many factors including:

  • Age of the patient;
  • Type of tummy tuck procedure;
  • The overall physical health of the patient;
  • The level of after-care provided or how well the patient adheres to restrictions, wearing compression garments, avoiding strenuous activity, etc.

Average Recovery Time For Tummy Tuck

Type of Tummy Tuck Average Healing Time
Mini tummy tuck 4-6 weeks
Full tummy tuck 6-8 weeks
Extended tummy tuck 8 weeks
Fleur-de-Lis tummy tuck 8-10 weeks
360-degree tummy tuck 10-12 weeks

Tummy Tuck Recovery Day By Day

Day 1 – The First 24 Hours After Having Surgery

  • Immediately after undergoing tummy tuck surgery, patients are taken to a designated area where they are monitored as they wake up from the anesthesia-induced sleep;
  • Often patients experience nausea or vomiting as an after-effect of general anesthesia. This should subside within 24 hours;
  • Usually, patients are given IV pain medications to ease their discomfort while in recovery;
  • Some more invasive tummy tuck surgeries may involve a night or two in the surgical center or hospital to mitigate risks and complications.

Day 2-3 – First 48-72 Hours Recovery from Abdominoplasty

  • If the patient is doing well and there have been no complications, they are discharged to recover at home;
  • Patients will need a ride home as they will be unable to drive again until cleared by their surgeon;
  • The surgeon will provide a prescription for pain medication to help the patient rest comfortably as well as one for antibiotics to help circumvent an infection;
  • For the next few days, patients should do very little but rest except for the mandatory short walks prescribed to prevent blood clots and trips to the bathroom;
  • The surgeon will provide instructions that are specific to the type of tummy tuck that was performed. These will include items such as keeping the incisions and drains maintained bathing and showering, sleeping, walking, how long to wear the compression garment each day, etc.;
  • Patients should not do any household tasks for at least a week and no lifting until cleared by the surgeon. For those of you with children and pets, this means you can not pick them up and you will need someone to help you during your recovery.

Tummy Tuck Healing Stages – Activity Week By Week

It is important that you follow all the guidelines provided to you by the surgeon including doing some recommended physical exercise to avoid post-surgery complications. You do not want to overdo it or begin an activity before you are able to safely perform it. Before starting any exercise program, check with your surgeon as patient recovery progresses at different rates.

Here are some week by week guidelines to help give you an idea of what activity level is recommended during your tummy tuck recovery experience:

Weeks 1 and 2

  • Take frequent short walks, while bending slightly forward. You will keep your circulation going to avoid deep vein thrombosis while protecting your newly repaired abdomen muscles from being pulled;
  • Wear the compression garment recommended post-surgery. It will help to keep bruising and swelling down and will maximize tummy tuck results;
  • If you work a desk job or one that is not physically demanding, you may be able to return to work at the end of this two-week period.

Weeks 3 and 4

  • Walking and light exercises can be resumed but nothing that pulls or targets the abdominal muscles;
  • Avoid doing anything aerobic-like with jarring steps, but use fluid continuous motions;
  • Avoid anything strenuous – no vacuuming, etc.

Weeks 4 through 6

  • You can begin to take longer walks;
  • You should be able to resume low level exercises such as water aerobics, low-impact exercise, low-level weight lifting for arms and legs.

The best thing to remember is to ease back into your normal routine, do not push past pain; stop if pain occurs.

Weeks 6 to 8

  • Normally the surgeon will clear patients for most aerobic-type exercises at this point;
  • You should be able to run on a treadmill or outdoors;
  • Moderate swimming is usually cleared by week 8;
  • Exercises that increase body strength without putting excess strain on the abdominal muscles are normally not an issue by this time.

8 Weeks Post-Op

Depending on which type of tummy tuck you have had, most patients are able to resume their normal activities except for activities such as martial arts, Crossfit, F45, boxing, etc. It is best to wait at least 12 weeks before attempting these or similar activities.

Do I Need to Wear A Compression Garment After A Tummy Tuck?

After a tummy tuck, patients are required to wear compression garments for between 4 and 8 weeks. Sometimes, these garments are called binders or corsets, depending on their shape.

The compression garments worn by the patient will change as healing progresses. There are different stages of compression garments that differ in firmness or how tightly they compress the area when worn.

Stage 1 Compression Garments

A compression garment for stage 1 is worn for 4-6 weeks immediately after surgery. Normally these garments have hooks and eyes to make it easier to use the bathroom without having to remove the entire garment.

Stage 2 Compression Garments

This garment is worn immediately after the first stage and allows the body’s lymphatic functioning to return to normal and to keep ridding the body of excess fluids reducing swelling naturally.

Stage 3 Compression Garments

These binders are also known as “everyday” shapewear and their usage is usually left up to the discretion of the patient.

What Does A Compression Garment Do?

After any type of surgery or “trauma”, our body sends an increase in blood to the site of the trauma to promote healing which causes fluid to build up in that area. Also, the use of general anesthesia during surgery can cause excess fluids in our bodies.

Bruising is also common after any type of surgery and is caused by damaged capillaries and trapped blood. Compressing these areas helps remove this excess blood through the body’s lymphatic system.

Incisions can become raised and bumpy as they heal but adding compression helps keep them flatter while they heal so they are less noticeable.

Wearing a special surgical grade compression garment helps reduce fluid build-up, controls swelling, minimizes bruising, can reduce the appearance of scars, and encourages the excess fluids to be eliminated through the lymphatic system.

Advance Preparation Makes Tummy Tuck Recovery Smoother

Planning ahead for your abdominoplasty recovery will make things much easier for you as well as your friend or loved one who will help you while you recover.

  • Prepare meals in advance to make it easier on yourself and the person who takes care of you right after surgery.
  • If you have small children or pets you will need to plan for someone to care for them until you are able. If you have school-age children, have a plan for their transportation if needed as you will not be able to drive for several weeks. It would also be a good idea to have their school supplies and clothing in order and easy to access.
  • Stock up on household essentials, personal care items, and groceries so you have everything you need on hand.

10 Helpful Tummy Tuck Healing Tips

  • Many patients sleep in a recliner for the first week or two;
  • Limit your intake of sodium to the bare minimum and stay well hydrated to help minimize swelling;
  • Take prescribed medication as directed;
  • Wear your compression garments faithfully;
  • Use ice packs to help alleviate swelling and pain;
  • Get as much rest as possible;
  • Drink at least 64 oz of water a day;
  • Try to move around without using any quick or jerky actions;
  • Ensure that you get your required “walking” in to keep your circulation going and avoid blood clots;
  • The first few days, walk slightly hunched over to lessen the tension that is put on your incision.

Knowing what to expect after your tummy tuck, and being prepared, will remove many of the issues that can cause stress and hinder your recovery.

Be sure to keep in close communication with your surgeon and inform them immediately if you develop a fever or show signs of infection.

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