Abdominoplasty: How to Prepare for and Recover from a Tummy Tuck

Abdominoplasty is a popular body contouring surgery for addressing abdominal deformity. The deformity may result from excess fat, skin, or muscle diastasis that often occurs in pregnancy. The procedure — commonly referred to as a tummy tuck — is associated with a high degree of patient satisfaction.

Key takeaways:

What is abdominoplasty?

Abdominoplasty — or tummy tuck — is a common procedure to improve the lower abdomen cosmetically. The procedure is safe and effective for many patients, but it is major surgery and requires recovery time. While some patients can go home just hours after an abdominoplasty, some patients need to remain in a healthcare facility for at least one night before being released.

What you experience immediately following abdominoplasty depends on the type of tummy tuck you have and other factors such as your weight, age, and overall health. In addition, recovering well and quickly depends on how you care for yourself before and after the procedure.

Tips for a quick recovery

Even elective surgery can be major surgery. Therefore, for the best results, treat it as one by following your doctor's orders afterward to heal properly. Remember, having the surgery is easy; recuperating properly from the procedure is the hard part. Let's take a look at doctors' best tips for recovering from abdominoplasty.

  • Quit smoking. Certain factors increase risks associated with abdominoplasty, such as hindered wound healing. Some factors, such as having certain chronic diseases like diabetes mellitus, are unpreventable. Others — like smoking — can be avoided to increase the success of an abdominoplasty procedure.
  • Eat well. Eating nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables before and after your procedure can help boost your health and accelerate your recovery. Eating healthy foods is important because vitamins are critical to successful wound healing.
  • Walk as soon as you can. Blood clots are one potential complication of abdominoplasty. Your surgeon may have you take anticoagulants to prevent clots, but gently walking can also be an effective way to reduce the risk of blood clots.
  • Stay hydrated. Hydration is always important, but in the context of abdominoplasty, it can help to stave off serious complications. Staying hydrated can also help to minimize some of the swellings you will likely experience following the surgery.
  • Raise your legs. Keeping your legs elevated when you are resting (another important part of recovery) is yet another way to avoid blood clots following abdominoplasty.
  • Stay clean. Infection is a relatively common complication of abdominoplasty – occurring in between 1 and 4 out of 100 procedures. Before an abdominoplasty procedure, your physician will likely give you an antibiotic to prevent infection. However, avoiding contaminating your incision or drain tubes is important to increase the chances of remaining infection-free. Your medical team should help you understand how best to care for your wound and tubes.
  • Take pain medications as directed. Most people experience severe pain following abdominoplasty. Usually, the most intense pain will occur in the first few days after the procedure. However, this pain can often be managed with over-the-counter pain medications.
  • Avoid rigorous exercise at first. Drastically limit your activity in the days and weeks after an abdominoplasty. You will need a driver to take you home after the procedure, and you will be advised to refrain from strenuous activity and exercise for about 4-6 weeks while you recover.
  • Support your abdomen. For approximately six weeks, you will wear an abdominal binder for support and to avoid fluid accumulation. You may also be advised to sleep at an angle to help reduce pressure on your abdomen.

Considerations before an abdominoplasty

Even after you successfully recover from your abdominoplasty, there will be issues you need to contend with. For example, you may feel numbness or other abnormal sensations in your tummy for months or years.

Virtually all surgical procedures produce scarring to various degrees. Though you'll have a notable scar following the procedure, it won't likely be very visible and will fade over time.

Fluid accumulation near your incision — known as seroma — is the most common complication associated with abdominoplasty. Drain tubes are placed to prevent such fluid accumulation and minimize accompanying risks.

The body heals itself quite quickly, so you should be able to shower within 48 hours without affecting the wound.

Elective surgery, such as abdominoplasty, is still a major surgery and preparations and precautions are important for successful results. By understanding exactly what's involved, you can better prepare for recovery by knowing what to expect.

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