Recovery From A Tummy Tuck: What Should You Expect?
Recovery From A Tummy Tuck: What Should You Expect?

Recovery From A Tummy Tuck: What Should You Expect?

The decision to get any surgery done is not easy, and we would want to keep ourselves as prepared as possible for having a smooth post-operative phase. In this article, our adept plastic surgeon, Dr. Shilpi Bhadani, who is known for offering the best tummy tuck or abdominoplasty surgery in Delhi, will be detailing the recovery phase. It will include giving a detailed tummy tuck surgery recovery and a breakdown month on month after a tummy tuck surgery.

Overview of Tummy Tuck Surgery
In tummy tuck surgery, liposuction is a necessary part of it to give a good result. In modern abdominoplasty surgery we are always doing liposuction of the abdomen to give a toned look to the abdomen in addition to removal of the loose skin that is present in the lower part of the abdomen. The navel is, of course, readjusted to a new and better position in the major abdominoplasty. This does not happen in a mini abdominoplasty, and it is mostly only the lowermost part of the loose skin that is removed in an elliptical fashion, not needing the adjustment of the navel. 

There is obviously an incision line at the lower part of the abdomen, and it is almost at a similar position or sometimes a little lower than your cesarean section scar (if you have it), only longer. The incision needs to be longer because it needs to adjust the laxity of the skin that is not only in the middle of the abdomen but also on the sides. The scar is very well concealed within the bikini line, and I have patients who have confidently even worn thongs to beaches after their abdominoplasty surgery, of course, after about a year when most of the scar has settled into a thin fine line.

Let’s now put our attention to the recovery from tummy tuck surgery. 

Tummy Tuck Surgery Recovery

  • During and Immediately After the Surgery

This phase is the one where I have found the patients are most apprehensive when they are asking questions during the consultation. The surgery itself is performed under IV sedation with local anaesthesia or, in some cases, under general anaesthesia. There is no question of feeling any pain during the surgery as you are sedated or under complete anaesthesia. Under the expert care of a qualified anaesthetist, you will have no remembrance of any surgical steps carried out. During the surgery, we also infiltrate the skin and fat with a liberal quantity of solution containing anaesthetic and drugs to reduce the bleeding to help in the process of liposuction. Due to this, even in the immediate post-operative phase, patients do not feel any pain. What they do feel is tightness and stretch to a certain extent because that is what we have done in the surgery. We have tightened the loose muscles and have removed and stretched the skin to a tighter abdomen.

Most of my patients are able to turn to the sides and move their legs immediately after the surgery.

  • Pain: Mostly, a feeling of stretch and tightness due to the tightening of the muscles and the removal and stretch of the skin, which is part of the procedure. 
  • Mobility: Little mobility is possible; care is to be taken about not stretching your hip joint too much, as that can lead to strain on the stitches. Anyway since you will be under the direct guidance of the nursing team and doctors, you need not worry too much as they will be guiding you about the do’s and don'ts.  
  • Food: After about 3-4 hours of your procedure, you may be allowed clear liquids. Caffeinated drinks and tea should be avoided at this stage so as not to cause gastritis.

You would be more or less wanting to rest and sleep on your day 0 (The day of your surgery)

1. Day 1

This, perhaps, will be the most difficult day in your recovery, and you will be expected to move a bit more. If you have been catheterized, the catheter will be removed on Day 1 to ensure that you move out of the bed and walk to the washroom. If you tend to be constipated, then a laxative may be given on Day 0 so that you can pass stool on Day 1 or Day 2. You should not stress out too much, though, as constipation for a day or two is common, and we generally prescribe medication for it.

  • Pain: More stretch will be felt on this day, and perhaps a little pain too on the sides, mainly because of the effect of liposuction. If you're still not wearing a pressure garment, then the nurses will help you get into one.
  • Mobility: A word for mobility here. The nurses or the doctor will advise you to move out of your bed in a stage-wise manner. First fold your legs, then propped up position. After waiting a while, hang your feet down the bed and sit upright, count to 100 and then take an upright position. This helps the body to accommodate to the changing positions, and many patients feel dizzy or have a feeling of blackout when they are doing this for the first time and it is completely normal.
      *After the first time, it will be easier, and you will learn to push yourself up and out of bed gradually.
      *The trick about sitting up is to do it by pushing your elbow against the bed and in a sideways fashion rather than a direct sitting up.
      *The rectus muscles are engaged in the straight position, and those are the muscles that have been tightened in this surgery, so you need to be careful not to put too much stress on that muscle so that it can heal uneventfully.
     *While walking, you need to keep a forward bedding position so that the stretch is not overbearing for you.
      *Your breathing needs to be deep, mobility needs to be optimum, and fluid intake should be adequate. Moving our legs will be critical as the veins may have the risk of blood clots, and that needs to be avoided at all costs.
  • Food: On day one would be light intake and non-spicy, carbohydrate-rich food. The drain (if it has been placed, will be removed by afternoon). In certain cases, I do take a call to keep it longer (very uncommonly, though) and remove it on your first visit after discharge. 

It is most likely that if you have had only abdominoplasty and not any other surgery combined with it, then you will be discharged from the hospital. Medications will be prescribed for you, and you will need to keep yourself in the pressure garment.

2. Day 2

  • Pain: Will be better today and mobility should also be easier than day 1.
  • Food: Again, more of liquids (3-4 liters), carbohydrate based food. The reason for carb-based food here is that it is easy for the body to digest carb-based food when under stress (here, the stress is surgery), and to keep the energy level higher, carbohydrate-based food is better. 
  • Mobility: You should be resting most of the time and not on bed rest completely.

While lying down, you need to take care not to stress the mid-abdomen and get up and lie down from the side. Keeping a pillow under your knees and elevating your head will keep the abdomen in a relaxed position. Again, you need to maintain a forward-bent position while walking.

  • Pain: With the painkillers, you should manage fine. We usually prescribe an SOS strong analgesic, too in case of a pain of more severity.

A slight fever on Day 2 is not usual; however, if there are chills with rigour more than twice, you should get in touch with the nursing team or doctor to help you with it.

The pressure garment needs to be kept on, and most of the garment has a hole at the perineal area to ease you with going to the washroom, and you will not need to take it off every time.

3. Day 3
This is when we usually call our patients for the first look after discharge. The dressings are changed. The compression garment will also be required to change into a cleaner one. If the wound permits, then waterproof dressing can be put on, and you may be allowed to shower.

The medications continue as usual.

  • Food: You may switch to more normal, day-to-day food while still keeping it relatively rich in carbohydrates.
  • Pain: It starts getting better from this day, and mobility will also be better.

Infection needs to be ruled out at this stage, and usually, if you do not have risk factors of infection, you should be getting much more comfortable from this day on.

4. Day 4 and Day 5:

Much better in terms of getting up from the bed (now you are a pro at it!) Mobility is better, and you can make yourself a cup of tea these days.

Rest most of the time, and keep moving those legs even while in bed!

In these 5 days, thoughts about doubting your decision to get a tummy tuck done will cross your mind several times, but trust me, it is worth it. Stay put!

5. After a Week

This is the time when you start feeling significantly better. Moving around is much easier in a straighter position, and the stitches have also started drying up by this time. You are able to remove and get in your pressure garment. If you would like to join the office around this time, it will be possible if that involves limited time work and not too much strain on your body.

At SB Aesthetics, we give our patients lymphatic drainage at this stage, and many patients choose to do it a couple of times a week for a month or so, which has a positive effect on the healing tissues. The scars formed are also lesser and mobility is much better after this. 

6. After 10 Days

This is the time for another follow-up, and you start to realize the positive way in which your body has changed. The areas of surgical intervention will have started to stiffen up, and that is completely normal. Stitches of a tummy tuck are totally dissolvable, and you should be dressing-free by this time. Keep taking breaks in between and start on your protein diet and iron-rich diet too! It is critical that you keep yourself up and about and also take frequent breaks to stretch yourself and work your legs.

7. After 3 weeks

Brisk walks can be started. The incision looks much cleaner and better, and the wounds should have all healed by this time. You should be applying silicone creams and a gel sheet to have better healing of your scar. Massaging the abdomen is also recommended, and some warm compresses will also help at this stage. 

If you experience itching, then we prescribe soothing lotions, and some new itching medications, too.

8. After a Month

The swelling of the tissue is getting better now, and you may start brisk walking for about 3-4 kilometres. Protein-rich diet is recommended.

9. After 6 Weeks

You may go back to your regular exercises. Bending backwards may be painful at this stage, and you should do proper stretching before you take on more difficult exercises. Massages will need to be continued. The area of the surgery will have started to soften at this stage. If you have planned for a vacation after your surgery then this is the time when you can take off on a vacation.

I generally advise my patients that if the vacation is an activity, then they should wait until this time. You will start noticing some numbness in the lower part of your abdomen. Now, like after a cesarean section, this area will not regain complete sensation. However, much of it will return in a year. You may opt for lasers for better settling of the scars.

10. After Three Months

You are almost at 70% of your result here. If you were not near your ideal body weight before the surgery, then you must seriously consider shedding weight at this stage, as it will show you the best possible result that you can have.

11. After 6 Months 

The abdomen will start showing definitions at this stage, and I am delighted when my patients come back to follow up with a midline definition that they love so much!
After a year: Well, here you are with 90% of your result. Make sure not to gain weight.

12. After a Year and a Half

This is 100% for what we worked together the entire year and a half! I would love to see you for a follow-up and take pictures of your results.

I hope this article will help you in being better prepared for your amazing journey and result! To get a tummy tuck done or to be sure about the procedure, we will show you other patients tummy tuck before and after.

To get more details on tummy tuck surgery recovery time, or to know tummy tuck or abdominoplasty surgery cost in Delhi, book an appointment now with Dr. Shilpi Bhadani at SB Aesthetics. 


Recovery From A Tummy Tuck: What Should You Expect?

MBBS, MS - General Surgery, MCh - Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, DAFPRS Fellowship in Aesthetic Surgery

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