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Tummy Tuck Recovery Week by Week: What to Expect

Tummy tuck recovery time is about 2 months but can vary from patient to patient and depends on the type of the surgery: full, extensive, or mini tummy tuck. Today we’ve prepared for you a comprehensive guide through the process of recovery after tummy tuck surgery exploring it week by week.

A tummy tuck or abdominoplasty was one of the top five cosmetic surgeries for both men and women performed in 2018 according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). It is normally performed on patients who have done all they can, with diet and exercise, to address their issue and now need professional help.

Tummy tucks fall into three categories:

  • full tummy tuck – for those with fat above and below the belly button,
  • extensive tummy tuck – for those with more severe loose skin or fat all around the midsection, or
  • mini tummy tuck – less extensive and is for those with fat or excess skin only below the belly button.

Whether you are considering a full or mini tummy tuck, it is important to have a good understanding of what the surgery will entail and, even more important, the aftercare requirements. Knowing what the recovery timeline looks like for a tummy tuck will help you be prepared and offer you a smoother, less stressful experience. It is important to follow all the instructions given to you by your surgeon so you will get the results that you are expecting from your tummy tuck.

It is also important to choose a board-certified surgeon because he or she has met rigorous training and safety requirements. You will rely on this surgeon throughout the entire process and having one you are comfortable with can make a big difference. Dr. Angelina Postoev is a triple board-certified surgeon by the American Board of Surgery and the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery and has performed over 1,000 tummy tucks on male and female patients.

Tummy Tuck Recovery Overview

Your recovery time will be unique to you as no two people are the same. Specific factors such as your overall health, age, body weight, and the type of procedure you are having can all play a role in the exact timeframe for recovery from your tummy tuck.

The majority of people can resume all their normal pre-surgery activities around the 8-week point.

It is human nature to want to be back to your normal routine as fast as possible, however, it is important to give yourself the time to heal properly. The results of your surgery will depend on you, to a large degree, and how closely and diligently you follow the post-operative instructions given to you by your surgeon.

Planning For Your Recovery At Home

For you to get the rest, your body will need to recover when you return home, you should plan as much in advance as possible.

You will need to have someone drive you home from the surgery as well as stay there with you for the first several days. You will need their help in caring for even your basic needs during this time.

If you have small children you will need to make a plan for them. You will not be able to lift, carry or run around after little ones for a while. The same can hold true for certain pets, if you have a big dog that needs to go out on a leash, you will not be in a position to handle that task for at least a few weeks.

Prepping meals and freezing them in advance might also be helpful as well as ensuring your groceries and personal care supplies are all stocked up and on hand. You won’t be able to drive for at least a few weeks so you will not be able to run out to the store.

Tummy Tuck Types Affect the Timeline

There are three different types of tummy tuck procedures and each will result in a different recovery time and/or process .

Standard tummy tuck (full) involves hip to hip incision and usually a belly button incision. It’s performed on patients who have excessive amounts of loose, hanging skin from pregnancy or a significant weight loss. Patients may also have significant separation of the abdominal muscles.

An extended tummy tuck involves an incision that extends beyond the hips, may include a vertical incision. It’s done for patients who have a great amount of loose sagging skin that hangs from their abdominal region to the hips and buttocks and can include the flanks, lower back, and lower chest.

Mini tummy tuck – smaller midway from hip to hip incision. It is limited to the lower abdominal region and is a good option for a patient who has limited muscle separation and less sagging skin.

The more extensive your surgery the longer recovery time you can expect. Someone who has a mini tummy tuck will have a shorter recovery time than a patient who has an extended tummy tuck.

Tummy Tuck Post-Op

Directly after surgery, you will spend a few hours in the recovery room. You will most likely feel tired, groggy, weak, and possibly nauseous from the anesthesia.

Your abdomen will be covered in surgical dressings and you will have some small tubes around any incisions for drainage purposes. These will stay in for the first few days. Most patients can return home the same day as their surgery.

You will be sent home with detailed instructions on how to care for yourself as you recover.

Video: Tummy Tuck: Procedure, Recovery, and Cost

Recovering After Abdominoplasty Week by Week

Week 1

When you first get home, you will be uncomfortable and may experience swelling and moderate pain. Your surgeon will have prescribed you some pain medication that you will probably need to take for the first week or so.

  • You will also have some antibiotics that you are to take for a certain amount of time and sometimes are also given a blood thinner. Antibiotic cream is often also prescribed to use around the incision areas.
  • You will have a support garment for your abdomen that you will need to wear for a prescribed number of hours per day that will help with swelling and discomfort. It is very important that you wear this garment properly and for the prescribed amount of time as this will affect your recovery time and results.
  • You will be advised to take short walks whenever you can even just around the room to avoid blood clots that can occur after any surgery.
  • You will have difficulty with bending, lifting, or standing for prolonged periods and will not be able to do many household tasks.
  • You will need to get a lot of rest the first few weeks and will need to rest at an angle for at least the first few days. Many find that sleeping in a recliner is the most comfortable for them and it is fairly easy to get out of.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and also avoid any form of nicotine for at least 3 months as it can impede the healing process and can even cause complications.

Week 2

You will need to follow your surgeon’s instructions for taking care of your incisions and drains each day until they are removed anywhere from day 3 to 7.

By the second week, you should be feeling much better and may no longer require prescription pain medication. Over-the-counter medications can be taken if needed as long as they do not contain aspirin. If you have a desk job or a work-from-home job requiring no physical labor or prolonged standing you may feel up to returning to your job duties after two weeks.

Pace yourself and do not rush your recovery as doing too much too soon may cause complications and prolong the recovery process.

Week 3

By the third week, most people are feeling much better and do not require medications for discomfort. You may still need to wear your compression garments for residual swelling which is completely normal.

Week 4

By Week 4 you will more than likely be cleared by your doctor to begin doing light activities or exercise.

You need to wait 6-8 weeks and get the doctor’s clearance before doing any strenuous activities. Your doctor can advise you what activities you can perform and when you can return to work.

Tips To Help You Maintain Your Tummy Tuck Surgery Results

1. Keep on a Healthy Diet

It is important to eat a healthy balanced diet as you recover from surgery. Your body has the remarkable ability to heal itself, but you need to provide it with the vitamins and nutrients it needs to do its job. Drink plenty of water, eat protein, green leafy veggies, and fresh fruit.

Vitamin A and vitamin C promote healing and support your immune system. Green tea is a great antioxidant and boosts immunity. Ginger tea will help with nausea. As with anything else, consult with your doctor about what supplements you can take to help your recovery.

2. Establish an Exercise Routine

As you reach the six to eight-week mark you should be feeling like yourself again and be back to your normal abilities. In addition to eating healthy, you should follow an exercise routine that will keep your “new” figure looking great. Your doctor can provide you with appropriate exercises that can be performed and a timeline as to when you should attempt each.

Video: Cherelles Story: Tummy Tuck Surgery and Recovery

Some people have numbness or feel a “pulling” sensation in their abdomens for months after having a tummy tuck. This is normal and will eventually go away. Dark red scarring is also normal but will fade & lighten over time.

When thinking about having a tummy tuck, the recovery process is something to consider. The recovery from a tummy tuck can be quite extensive but also manageable and attainable with proper planning.

A tummy tuck could be the perfect way to achieve the aesthetic goals you desire. Contact our offices today to schedule a consultation to start planning for the new improved you.

Angelina Postoev, MD, FACS, a triple board-certified cosmetic surgeon, and Christopher Ibikunle, MD, FACS, offer tummy tuck surgery to patients in Lawrenceville, Suwanee, Johns Creek, Buckhead, and other surrounding areas of Atlanta, Georgia.

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