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Tummy Tuck, Body

Tummy Tuck Recovery: What Should I Expect?

The belly pooch has been a fact of motherhood for eons. Unfortunately, no amount of crunches or dieting will eliminate the loose sagging skin or protruding belly that commonly occurs after having kids.

Enter the tummy tuck. Tummy tucks are one of the most popular cosmetic surgeries requested. Here's why - a tummy tuck is the only treatment (not lipo, not CoolSculpting) that will restore a flat and firm belly if you have loose sagging skin.

Tummy tuck patients are among the happiest with their results after the procedure. The results are dramatic, sometimes even life-changing. Many patients look back at the process and realize that their biggest regret was that they waited so long to get their tummy tuck.

And yet it's important to understand that a tummy tuck is a real surgical procedure. And real surgery involves real recovery. In fact, the recovery is often the most challenging part of the entire tummy tuck experience.

We wrote this article to help you understand the recovery process and what to expect after a tummy tuck, so that your recovery can be as smooth and easy as possible. The recovery after a tummy tuck is perfectly manageable, so long as you know what to expect and how to take care of yourself properly.

The Tummy Tuck Procedure

First of all, what is a tummy tuck exactly? What actually happens in the operating room after the anesthetist puts you to sleep and the procedure begins?

Typically, your doctor starts by making a horizontal cut along the bikini line. Next, the skin is pulled back, fat is removed, and the ab muscles are repaired. Then, the skin flap is pulled down, a new hole is made for your belly button, and the excess skin is cut away. In one common variation, called lipoabdominoplasty, liposuction is also used to remove excess fat from the belly.

After your procedure, you belly will look dramatically flatter. You should expect temporary side effects such as soreness, tightness, swelling, bruising, numbness, and possible waviness. These side effects will gradually resolve over the first few to several weeks to months following surgery.

So, who is a good candidate for a tummy tuck?

A large number of patients are women in search of getting their pre-baby body back or individuals who shed a great deal of weight. Both pregnancy and obesity stretch out the abdominal wall and cause sagging or protrusion. Sometimes diet and exercise actually worsen the problem. These are specific cases where only a tummy tuck brings back that former tautness.

Your doctor can help you determine which procedure is right for you and give you an idea of realistic results based on your body and goals.

Also known as abdominoplasty, a tummy tuck:

  • Removes excessive lower abdominal skin,
  • Reduces the appearance of stretch marks,
  • Tightens the abdominal wall and repair muscles,
  • Creates a flatter abdomen and narrower waist, and
  • Increases your self-confidence.

A Tummy Tuck Recovery Time Overview

Although healing time varies from person to person, you can expect early recovery to last from one to four weeks. In the hands of a skilled surgeon, your surgery will go more smoothly and your body will experience less trauma to recover from. However, you should also keep a positive spirit, maintain confidence in your decision to have the tummy tuck, and make sure stress levels are low.

The Stages of Tummy Tuck Recovery

  1. 1. The First Day: Going Home After Your Procedure
  2. 2. The First Week: Tight and Sore
  3. 3. The Second Week: Getting More Comfortable
  4. 4. The Third, Fourth, and Fifth Weeks: Regaining Mobility
  5. 5. The Sixth Week and Beyond: Getting Back to Normal (including exercise)

Expectations for Recovery

1. The First Day: Going Home After Your Procedure

The good news is, most tummy tucks are performed as an outpatient procedure and patients typically go home the day of surgery. However if your procedure is more extensive, you may spend the night.

Your doctor will send you home with medications to help manage your pain. It is a good idea to have a friend or family member stay with you during your first 24 hours after surgery.

2. The First Week: Tight and Sore

This will be the most challenging part of recovery. You will feel uncomfortable, sore, and tight as your body works to heal itself. The best way to expedite recovery time is to:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Keep up with your prescribed medications
  • Properly care for your wound
  • Gently move around early on

During this critical time, you should not:

  • Drive anywhere
  • Exercise in any way
  • Lift anything heavy
  • Perform household duties

As you begin to walk around during the first week you may find you have to walk hunched over like a little old lady. Regardless, it is important to get up and move around, in order to keep your legs from getting blood clots. At this time, you may also be instructed to wear a girdle or have small drainage tubes that assist with the healing and need to be emptied.

This will likely be the most discouraging part of recovery. Even if you begin to feel like you regret your surgery during this time, be patient. You will feel better with each day that passes. Eventually, most patients are thrilled with the surgery despite any inconveniences encountered during recovery.

3. The Second Week: Getting More Comfortable

Day by day and week by week you will find comfort levels improve, mobility increases, and your strength returns. Under your doctor’s supervision, you can probably begin doing light chores and reducing your pain medications at this time.

Though you may be feeling better, it's important to continue to avoid strenuous activity during this time. Your body is still in the process of recovering from a surgical procedure. Focusing on following your doctor's orders and caring for your wounds will help ensure a speedy recovery.

4. The Third, Fourth, and Fifth Weeks: Regaining Mobility

At this point most patients find they are able to resume regular activities. During weeks two to four, your strength and mobility should continue to improve.

At the same time, it is normal for some slight swelling, numbness, tingling, or other funny sensations to still exist.

5. The Sixth Week and Beyond: Getting Back to Normal (including exercise)

Though your body will take 6 to 12 months to completely heal, most patients find they are able to resume exercising again between weeks 6 to 12 weeks after their surgery.

Is a Tummy Tuck Right for Me?

There are many factors to consider when contemplating a tummy tuck, including cost, the surgery itself, and recovery time. Another important aspect that greatly affects your overall experience and the time it takes is the surgeon you choose. He or she can make the difference between an amazing experience and a horror story. Take your time and do your research! Ask for references and look at before and after pictures.

If a tummy tuck is the right fit for you, feel free to use the following easy tools to help you take that next step.

Talk to an experienced doctor about your specific needs if you are considering a tummy tuck. Be prepared to follow his or her recommendations regarding surgical preparations and recovery. Together, you will ensure beautiful and realistic results, as well as a smooth recovery period.

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About the Author

Dr. Larry Fan is a Harvard educated, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon in San Francisco, CA. He is a Master Artist who is known for creating beautiful, stunning, and natural results. Dr. Fan has been named One of America's Top Plastic Surgeons for the past 10 years running and has received several national awards for his work in Plastic Surgery. He has successfully performed more than 10,000 cosmetic procedures of the face, breasts, and body over a 20 year period. Dr Fan has been an invited speaker at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American College of Surgeons, and has been featured in national media outlets such as CNN, NBC, and ABC.

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