Abdominoplasty, commonly known as a tummy tuck, is a relatively invasive surgery, as it not only removes excess fat and skin, but it also tightens the underlying abdominal muscles. With both internal and external treatment involved, achieving full recovery requires taking the recovery process seriously. Although you will not be bed ridden after the surgery, you will be on bed rest and expected to minimize physical activity.
The length of the resting period after the surgery depends, of course, on the extent of the procedure. You will wear a compression garment for up to eight weeks, and you’ll be left with scars, which will need care and attention.
Tummy Tuck Recovery
After the surgery, you will be asked to lie in a specific position: your back should be a little raised, and you should keep your knees at an angle. The hospital team will assist in positioning you on your bed, as well as help you have your first short walk the very first day. This walk will be strenuous, but it’s crucial for the prevention of blood clots. You will be experiencing some swelling and bruising, which will naturally cause discomfort and pain.
The pain will be regulated with pain medication, and depending on your personal situation, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics in order to prevent infection. You will be examined by your doctor the first day after the surgery, which is when you’ll arrange the regular weekly appointments that will ensure you’re healing properly.
The details of your recovery will largely depend on the type of tummy tuck you’ve had – meaning, the extent and grasp of the procedure.
Tummy Tuck Classification
The tummy tuck is classified into three different categories: the mini, the standard and the extensive procedure. Naturally, the recovery period varies based on the kind of procedure you’ve had done.
The mini abdominoplasty is focused on the area below the belly button and typically involves incisions placed between the hip bones. This procedure normally doesn’t require more than a week’s worth of rest before you can resume your normal day-to-day activities.
The standard abdominoplasty includes treatment of the areas both above and below the belly button. The extensive abdominoplasty is the same as the standard one, but it also includes liposuction, as well as the removal of the so-called love handles. Both these procedures ask for a two to three week recovery period involving strict rest.
If you’ve had a standard or an extensive tummy tuck, your surgeon will attach drainage tubes to your incisions. Drainage tubes are connected to your incisions on one end, and then to small suction bags on the other. Their purpose is the drainage of fluids which tend to build up in wounds after surgery, as that the fluid buildup can be dangerous.
The drainage tubes are usually removed within the first week – how soon they will be removed depends on each individual patient, along with the amount of excess fluid. Your surgeon will decide when to remove the tubes during your post-op checkups. (Scheduled for liposuction? Read Your Guide to Liposuction Recovery.)
The Compression Garment
After the tummy tuck, you will have to wear a compression garment. The purpose of the compression garment is to prevent swelling, as well as the emergence of seromas – yellowish liquid that builds up in the incisions and starts leaking out post-op. Alongside reducing swelling and fluid retention, the compression garment is there to make sure that you achieve the anticipated aesthetic results.
It will be positioned by your surgeon in such a way that it maintains the goal figure of the procedure. The first few weeks after the surgery are a critical time, both when it comes to health and healing, and to the desired aesthetical results of the surgery. The compression garments help your body form and maintain the desired shape.
Some doctors recommend an abdominal binder, while others recommend a full-body compression garment. You should discuss what works best for you with your surgeon. The length of time you will be expected to wear the garment also varies, based on the extent of the procedure you’ve undergone, and your personal condition. However, you will most certainly have to wear it for at least six weeks.
Post-Op and Daily Activities
After the tummy tuck, you won’t be expected to lie in bed 24/7. However, your activities and your mobility will be limited, and you have to take this seriously, as with many surgical procedures. Most importantly, you are to avoid any sort of lifting at all costs – which involves lifting bags of groceries as well!
You will have incisions on your stomach, and making sure they heal properly means avoiding putting any sort of pressure on them, and lifting things is the most dangerous kind of strain to put on your abdomen.
You may feel fine, and it may seem silly to ask someone else to carry out the simplest tasks for you, like moving or lifting objects, but it’s your health on the line! You should also avoid bending, as your incision will be placed around the waistline, and bending over can risk re-opening it.
The complicated thing is, though, that staying in bed for an entire week is also bad for you, as it may cause blood clots. The trick is finding the magic middle. While any sort of lifting and exercise are out of the question, and you should cut your normal daily mobility by half, you should also make sure that you do move around at least a little bit.
While you shouldn’t spend the whole day on your feet, stretching your legs around the apartment several times a day is a must. Let’s say that walking around the house is fine, but spending an hour at the park with your dog isn’t.
The Tummy Tuck Scar Scenario
As is the case with every surgery, incisions will leave scars. Regardless of what type of tummy tuck you’ve had, you’ll be left with a scarred pelvic area. You will have a scar in the area under your belly button, stretching from hip to hip. A full abdominoplasty leaves a scar around your belly button.
The scars will look quite threatening at first, but don’t despair- when they are “fresh,” all scars are quite red, bruised and scary-looking. Over time, they start slowly blending in with the rest of your skin, both when it comes to color and texture. How long it will take for your scar to heal – and to what extent it will heal – is sadly impossible to tell with certainty. Everyone’s skin responds to scarring differently, and the only real indicator you have is life experience.
Your tummy tuck scar will behave the same way the rest of your scars have behaved. Some people’s skin heals rather well and quite quickly, while other people take years to get rid of the redness of the incisions. Your scar will never completely disappear, but chances are it will become so pale and so smooth that it will blend in with the rest of your skin to the point of being almost unnoticeable.
It’s important to take care of your scars by treating them with ointments, and making sure your skin is properly moisturized. It’s also very important to avoid direct exposure to the sun, as UV exposure makes scars thicker and darker.