Tummy Tuck Recovery: What to Expect

woman with flat stomach

For some patients, tummy tuck surgery is the only way to achieve a truly flat stomach. If you have a large amount of loose abdominal skin or you’re suffering from diastasis recti (abdominal muscle separation), adominoplasty will be necessary to correct the deep structural problems that underlie your protruding belly. Before you proceed with surgery, however, you’ll need to be aware that this complex procedure requires a relatively lengthy recovery period. Though healing from tummy tuck surgery can be completed comfortably at home, you’ll need to plan for your recovery ahead of time.

Tummy Tuck Recovery Timeline

Healing from tummy tuck surgery can take up to two months, but you won’t need to rest in bed for the duration of your recovery. Tummy tuck recovery occurs in several stages, and as it progresses, you’ll be able to gradually resume your normal activities.

The First Week

Before you have tummy tuck surgery, your surgeon should provide you with a list of recovery protocols to follow. You’ll have documentation covering how to care for your incisions, how to bathe, what activities to avoid, etc. We strongly recommend reviewing these documents before you have surgery. You may also want to give a copy of them to your chosen caregiver.

Be aware that you’ll probably be fitted with a special surgical drain designed to remove fluid from your abdomen. (Draining this fluid greatly reduces swelling.) If this is necessary, you’ll be told how to empty and care for your drain, too.

Right after you leave the operating room, you’ll be very tired and groggy owing to the effects of general anesthesia. Some people find that this fatigue can last for three to five days after surgery. As such, you’ll need someone to drive you home from the hospital and look after you for at least three days. You can expect to spend three to five days resting in bed, eating soft foods, and avoiding any unnecessary movement. You’ll also need to take an antibiotic and pain medication for about one week.

Two to Four Weeks After Surgery

Ten to fourteen days after your surgery, you’ll be able to have your surgical drain removed. However, you will still need to wear a special compression garment to support your healing tissues and keep swelling at bay.

By week two, you should be feeling better overall; any soreness you experienced will begin to subside, and you’ll be able to dress yourself, bathe yourself, and complete other light tasks with ease. Still, it’s vitally important to keep following your surgeon’s instructions, even if you feel better; muscle and connective tissue take a long time to heal, and they remain vulnerable to tearing for several weeks after surgery. Don’t start exercising at this point and don’t lift anything heavier than 20 pounds.

Four to Six Weeks after Surgery

After four weeks have passed, your surgeon will examine your abdomen and let you know whether or not you can start exercising again. Some patients can resume light exercise at this point, but it’s not uncommon to need to wait six to eight weeks before engaging in physical activity.

By the six week mark, you’ll be able to remove your compression garment and enjoy the full results of your abdominoplasty. Your swelling should be completely gone by this point, allowing you to see your newly taut, lean contours. If your scars are more visible than you expected, don’t worry; they’ll continue to fade over the next few years, eventually becoming subtle white lines.

Learn More About Tummy Tuck Surgery

Recovering from tummy tuck surgery without complications takes time, patience, and the assistance of an experienced plastic surgeon. As a trusted member of the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons, the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, Dr. Douglas Grace provides attentive, expert follow-up care to all of his abdominoplasty patients. To learn more about his approach to tummy tuck surgery, contact him at (905) 336-9636.

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